By April Bayer
New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Jan Brett returned to Seward on Saturday, Sept. 22, to promote her new book, “The Snowy Nap.”
Brett previously visited Seward in 2016 on another book tour, and she enjoyed it so much that her agent arranged for her to come back.
“It’s just a wonderful countryside, so it’s wonderful to see everybody out in the middle of campus running around. It’s lovely,” Brett said.
The Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival co-sponsored Brett’s visit along with Chapters Books and Gifts, a local independent bookstore. The store parked their new bookmobile, Paige, outside Weller Hall and sold copies of Brett’s books while she gave a presentation in Weller Auditorium.
“We’re thrilled (Jan) came back,” Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival Director Dylan Teut said. “She drew a large crowd once again and didn’t disappoint with her drawing and storytelling. I think that ‘The Snowy Nap’ will be a favorite book for those who love to read her stories.”
Brett began her presentation by introducing her husband, Joseph Hearne, who has been a bassist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for over 50 years. She said that the couple enjoys traveling around the world together for Hearne’s symphony tours and Brett’s book tours.
Brett then told the audience about how she came up with the plot and illustrations for “The Snowy Nap,” a prequel to her 2007 book, “The Hat.” “The Snowy Nap” takes place in Denmark and tells the story of Hedgie the Hedgehog and his adventures with a little girl in the wintertime.
As Brett drew a hedgehog for the audience, she gave advice to the children in the audience so they could draw their own hedgehogs and create their own stories.
“It was great as a future teacher to hear her explain her process and how kids can start drawing,” junior Corrianne Cain said. “(Having her) just be able to emphasize the ideas of sticking with the process and practicing and growing as artists and as writers was really excellent to hear.”
Brett then told the story of how she first learned what real hedgehogs look like by visiting an animal hospital in England called St. Tiggy-Winkle’s. St. Tiggy-Winkle’s specializes in the care of injured hedgehogs and is named after Beatrix Potter’s story “The Tale of Miss Tiggy-Winkle.” Brett and her husband ended up sponsoring the medical care of three separate hedgehogs at the hospital, who were later released back into the wild.
Brett also shared her advice for young writers and illustrators.
“Set a kitchen timer for an hour, and get in a little cozy place in your house where you won’t be interrupted. Get out your art supplies and give yourself some time to think and just write,” Brett said.
After Brett’s presentation, audience members had the opportunity to line up and have their books autographed by Brett or take photographs with Hedgie the Hedgehog.
“Watching (Jan) draw and sketch onstage was just really amazing and to see her characters come to life,” junior Sarah Groeling said. “I’ve been reading her books since I was probably three years old. My mom read them to me, and so getting to see her stories and how she is inspired to write them was amazing.”
Brett’s illustrations are also currently on display in the Marxhausen Gallery of Art as a part of the Plum Creek Children’s Literary Festival and can be viewed until Oct. 20. Brett will continue her book tour for “The Snowy Nap” in November after visiting Alaska to research another new book.