Happy Birthday, Jan Brett!

By Josephhearne at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16689865

Jan Brett may not be the kind of author usually featured on the LSQ blog, but today is her birthday and I think she deserves some recognition. An accomplished children’s author and illustrator, Jan Brett has written and illustrated dozens of books with beautifully detailed illustrations. Some are fairy tale retellings, some are original stories, some take place in the real world, and some in imaginary lands. Does this mean Brett’s works can be considered speculative? Definitely! One of her more recent books, The Mermaid, is an Okinawan retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with an even more fantastical twist. My personal favorite of Brett’s is Comet’s Nine Livesa story about a mischievous cat named Comet who keeps losing one of his nine lives as he searches for a place to settle down on the anthropomorphic dog-inhabited island of Nantucket. The story is actually a little morbid when you think about it–the cat keeps having brushes with death–but of course it has a happy ending, and for a beach-lover like myself, the illustrations are such a treat.

Brett’s books are especially perfect to read this time of year. Lots of her stories take place in the winter, and she has plenty of Christmas stories, too. We’re probably all familiar with The Mitten, the playful tale where a slew of animals in various sizes try to fit into a little boy’s lost mitten. One of my first encounters with Jan Brett’s works was Christmas Trolls, where young Treva must teach two childish trolls about the spirit of Christmas. The fact that I can remember all of these stories perfectly even 20 years later proves how incredible Brett’s works are!

Although the stories themselves are memorable, what really sets Brett’s works apart are her illustrations. They’re so packed with detail, and often tell side-stories that aren’t in the text. She usually includes extra illustrations on the borders of the pages, like Lisa looking for her lost hat in The Hat while the animals are busy stealing more clothes in the main story, or what the lost cat Taffy is up to in Annie and the Wild AnimalsBrett also does extensive research and traveling for her books, whether they’re set in Denmark or India, Sweden or Martinique. Her dedication to her craft really comes through, which I think sets her apart from a lot of other children’s authors.

Any time is a good time to check out Jan Brett’s impressive bibliography, but I think December, the month of her birth, is the best time. Christmas-lovers, fairy tale aficionados, art appreciators, and the young-at-heart–you’re all in for a treat! In honor of Jan Brett, do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books this month.