Jan Brett--Especially for Christmas

Bored? Nothing to do? Jump into a cozy picture book on a winter night. Troublesome trolls and a beauty's Beast! Helpful hedgehogs and polite polar bears! Whether you find yourself surrounded by swirling snowflakes or a chilly blue twilight, there are no better companions for winter's frozen brightness than Jan Brett's tales from the European tradition.

Jan Brett knows all about the magical relationship between a book and a reader. "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books," she once recalled. "Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists."

Plan to spend as much time looking at her detailed pictures as you do reading her stories. Jan Brett has so many ideas that they often spill into the borders, telling the story behind the story. For example, in Annie and the Wild Animals, Annie's pet cat wanders away in the fall. Feeling lonely, she tries to turn the wild animals into her pets. Annie is worried about her cat, but an alert reader can follow the feline's adventures in those wonderful border drawings.

Readers and reviewers alike are enchanted by the extra meanings that she works into her paintings. Goldilocks and the Three Bears wear traditional German costumes from the homeland of the Brothers Grimm. Look carefully at the tapestries in Beauty and the Beast. They reveal the true identities of the castle's animal servants.

Jan Brett has gathered many awards over the years from groups such as the American Library Association, The New Yorker, the National Science Teachers Association, American Bookseller, and the International Reading Association. She lives in a coastal town in her native Massachusetts with her husband who is a musician with the Boston Symphony. In the summers, they retreat to a mountain home, but they also enjoy traveling to research ideas for Jan's books. A recent trip to the frozen Norwegian province of Finnmark rounded out material for her recent book, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve. You listen to her speak about creating her books on her Web site-- a great place to visit online that's loaded with fun things to do.

Wintry Books in the Library Featuring Jan Brett's Work

Christmas Trolls
Treva finds that her family's Christmas decorations have been stolen by two naughty trolls who have never had their own Christmas.

Gingerbread Baby
Matti can't wait for his gingerbread man to bake, so he pulls open the oven door too early and gets a gingerbread baby instead!
"I am the Gingerbread Baby,/ Fresh from the pan./ If you want me,/ Catch me if you can."
Parents and animals take off after him, but Matti stays home and works on his own clever plan to catch the runaway.

The Mitten: A Ukranian Folktale
Nikki begs his grandmother to make him a pair of mittens as white as snow, and she does even though she knows he will lose one. The lost mitten becomes a welcome home to many forest animals-- until the mouse tickles the bear's nose! For those who like The Mitten, Jan followed it up with a series of books about the Hedgie the hedgehog and her friends, beginning with The Hat.

The Night Before Christmas
Clement Moore's classic holiday poem is paired with Jan Brett's detailed folk art.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
The song about all of those amazing gifts becomes even more spectacular when teamed with Jan Brett's beautiful art.

Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
More troublesome trolls! A Finnmark boy and his pet polar bear keep the unwelcome visitors out so that Kyri and her father can enjoy their Christmas Eve dinner.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer
Teeka, an Arctic girl who lives "in the shadow of Santa's Winterfarm," has been asked by the jolly old elf to train his team for the big night.

Jan Brett on the Web

Author Jan Brett's Home Page -- A Great Place for Ideas
Listen to an online newsletter and explore this amazing site. Dozens of great activities: flash cards, character masks for acting out stories, finger puppets, bulletin board sets, drawing lessons, and many crafts. Lots of fun coloring pages: Christmas coloring placemats, Santa's Winterfarm Towers, Christmas Coloring Page, Santa's Winterfarm Ornaments, Santa and His Elves, Hedgie Trims the Christmas Tree, The Ice Bear and the Troll. Includes audio and video interviews with the author.

Biography Resource Center -- Jan Brett
Want to learn more about Jan Brett? Here are two online articles from reference books available to CRRL library card holders.

Jan Brett's Biography
Jan talks about how she came to love writing and drawing.


Photo Credits:

  1. Jan Brett at the Arctic Circle by Joseph Hearne CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikicommons