Beloved Children's Author to Visit Southern Pines
“The Mitten,” “The Hat,” “The Wild Christmas Reindeer,” “The Three Snow Bears,” “The Night Before Christmas.”
Look on the bookshelves in the children’s department of any bookshop, library or museum store and likely there will be at least one book by author-illustrator Jan Brett.
With more than 38 million copies in print of her 30-plus picture books, Jan Brett is one of the most widely known and beloved children’s book authors in the world.
And on Tuesday, Oct. 9, from 5 to 7 p.m., Brett will be in Southern Pines.
“We have been working for more than five years to secure this event,” says Kimberly Daniels, manager of The Country Bookshop. “The Country Bookshop has personal contact with representatives from many of the publishing houses, including Penguin, which publishes many of Brett’s picture books. Those reps are continually telling their bosses in New York what a fantastic place Southern Pines is and how incredibly supportive the community is of The Country Bookshop, and the publishing houses are beginning to listen.
“Jan Brett is a huge author for us, and we are her only stop in North Carolina for this book tour. Because of that, we have worked with the folks at the Sunrise to secure the theater for the evening. We hope folks from Southern Pines and Moore County are just as excited as we are.”
Tickets are free with the purchase of a copy of the book “Mossy” from The Country Bookshop.
Whether retelling a traditional tale or creating an homage to a member of the animal kingdom, each of Brett’s picture books is an extensively researched and carefully crafted masterpiece taking about a year to complete from the initial story idea stage to the final draft.
After traveling to North, Central, and South America, the Arctic, Asia, India, and Central and Southern Africa to gain inspiration for her past books, the research venue for her current book, “Mossy,” took considerably less travel time.
“Last year my husband, and touring companion, Joe Hearne, and I dug a turtle pond in our backyard,” says Brett. “We were advised not to stock it, instead, to simply create the perfect environment with sun, shade, caves for hiding, rocks for sunning and with depth below the frost line. We then waited to see who would take up permanent residence. One day we were on our dock and I saw this weed shaped like a turtle. When the weed began to move, we looked closer and saw it was actually a giant snapping turtle with weeds streaming behind it.”
Brett’s imagination was sparked.
“I had always heard the Native American tales of the natural world springing from growth on the shell of a turtle, so I transformed my aquatic turtle to an Eastern box turtle, included, on her back, a few of the miraculous Northeastern U.S. flora and fauna, along with a very interesting red mushroom with white dots (which, by the way, is poisonous and can be found hiding in the illustrations), and that was the inspiration for ‘Mossy,’” Brett says.
Set in the Edwardian time period of 1908-1915 when many small natural history museums sprang up from people’s collections, “Mossy” is the story of an Eastern box turtle with a gorgeous garden growing on her shell who is taken to such a museum. After the observant niece of the curator notices Mossy’s apparent sadness at living in a viewing pavilion, Mossy first has her portrait painted, and is then released back into the wild.
As in all of Brett’s books, the pages are intricately detailed.
“When I was little, I was an anxious kid, who liked to read,” says Brett. “I loved existing with the characters and was devastated if something unexpectedly sad happened to one of them.
“Sometimes I read the last page first just so I wouldn’t be blindsided by the events in the story. Although my books are generally lighthearted tales, I use details in my illustrations to give hints about what is to come in the story so no one is ever blindsided. Also, I find adding details through smaller sub-themes in the illustrations to be a very satisfying way to tell a story.”
Beth Carpenter, floor manager at The Country Bookshop, thought after hearing the subject of Brett’s new book that it would be perfect for The Country Bookshop to partner with Weymouth Woods to promote its newest turtle research program.
“Scott Hartley, park ranger at Weymouth Woods, put us in touch with Dr. John Roe, a biologist at UNC Pembroke who is conducting a tracking study of the Eastern box turtle’s movements throughout the park in relation to prescribed burning,” says Carpenter. “We thought it would be interesting to pair Brett’s book with a similar local project.”
There will be a display detailing Dr. Roe’s research in the lobby of the Sunrise Theater on Oct. 9 during the “Mossy” event.
“Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, expect to see a huge rendition of ‘Mossy’ on the side of Jan Brett’s tour bus parked in front of the Sunrise Theater,” says Daniels. “We anticipate a huge turnout of Brett’s fans from all over North and South Carolina to join us for this exciting event.”
Call (910) 692-3211 for details.
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