Tag Archives: Jan Brett
Hedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett.
What you need to know about this story is that there is a tomten in it. The main antagonist, the one causing all the trouble, is a tomten. There are not a lot of children’s books out there that require me to look up one of the first words in the story! Perhaps this just speaks to my poor Scandinavian folklore education. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) a tomten, or tomte, is a “humanoid mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore.” In this story, the tomten is a very small, troublesome little scamp who resembles an elf. And a rotten, selfish little elf-thing at that. Every day he barges into Henny’s coop and steals her eggs. She begrudgingly tolerates this until she realizes that if she could keep the eggs she could have baby chicks! But despite her best efforts, she cannot keep that tomten away.
Happily, Henny’s friend Hedgie the hedgehog (I know, these names are not up to Jan Brett’s usual standards) helps devise a cunning plan by hiding the eggs and replacing them with various other edibles, until at last Hedgie hides and gives that tomten a prickly surprise! This is not the book Jan Brett is best known for; it’s a perfectly good read and the images, as always, are lovely. Great for kids 4-6.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett.
I know I have only recently told you faithful readers about a book by Jan Brett. But the truth is I picked out a small pile of her books from the library because I enjoy reading her works and my son enjoys them too. There is always so much happening on a given page that often he is still taking it all in by the time I have finished reading all the text.
Berlioz the Bear is no exception. I don’t know if this a folk tale in its own right or a take on some common folk tale themes, but I wouldn’t put it past Jan Brett to create fresh new folk literature out of thin air.
In this story, we have a group of bear musicians on the way to perform in town when the wagon wheel gets stuck in a hole and the recalcitrant little donkey will not budge. One by one the proud and confident neighboring animals try to pull the wagon, and its stubborn donkey, along the road. But when even the mighty ox cannot budge them, what tiny guy will save the day? The mysterious buzzing in Berlioz the Bear’s bass may provide a clue…
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett
For those who know Jan Brett’s oeuvre, she is best known for retelling European folk and fairy tales: the Mitten; Red Riding Hood; Goldilocks and the three bears to name a few. In Armadillo Rodeo she shows her American side, taking readers to the hills of Texas. It’s a silly sort of story, about a mother armadillo and her four children, one of whom, Bo, is always distracted, always getting into trouble. When he sees that girl with the brand-new bright red cowboy boots, Bo inexplicably mistakes that boot for a red armadillo. (The author blames this on poor eyesight, but really!)
Intrigued by this unusual new friend, Bo follows the girl with the chili pepper-red boots all over and gets a glimpse of some down-home cowboy living. From bronco riding, to barbecue to hoedown, this adventure has all that Texas living has to offer!
As with all of Jan Brett’s stories, this one is beautifully illustrated. I don’t think the story is quite up to snuff of her others, but my four-year-old may disagree. Implausible plot points seem to be lost on him :-/
Finding a good illustrated version of a classic fairy tale can be quite a challenge. All too often, the illustrations are ugly, or creepy, or both. The below picture is an excellent example, even though it comes from one of my childhood books and I kind of want to get a copy and kind of never want to see it again:
If terrified ambivalence is not something you are interested in, and being awoken by children/partners afraid of creepy-ass Bosch-styled monsters isn’t your thing, then you might want to check out Jan Brett’s books. She has illustrated and retold literally millions of tales, from the Ukrainian folk tale The Mitten to a version of Three Little Pigs set in Namibia. My boy’s new favorite is her version of Beauty and the Beast.
After seeing the Jean Cocteau and the Disney versions, (oh and that Ron Perlman take too) it would be difficult to approach this classic Perrault story with fresh eyes. But Jan Brett does a fantastic job. The beast isn’t even a lion thing like he is in every other version. He’s a big hairy hog! Which is far less sexy than a lion, which makes Beauty’s decision to marry him that much nobler.
But seriously, it’s no wonder she has 37 MILLION books in print. She’s a terribly talented illustrator. The pictures are so rich and filled with little hidden treats for kids to pick out of the details. Fun.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Today is the big day my boy turns four so in honor of the self-proclaimed “boss of the day” I will review a couple of his (but not necessarily my) favorite bedtime stories.
So the story is fine and somewhat predictable: the donkey Hee-Haw and his mouse friend Chester love magic but the other farm animals don’t believe a simple donkey and mouse could possibly be magicians. Guess who gets shown up in the end? Yup, that cynical pig, the condescending rabbit and the grumpy goose. I simply do not like the name Hee-Haw and it hurts me to read that name aloud over and over. And I am required to read it over and over. And over.
I actually like this one. Jan Brett is a great illustrator. There is always a little side story going on in the margins of her illustrations. This one tells the story of a girl who encounters a bunch of pesky trolls who are trying to steal her dog. Capitalizing on their stupidity and greed, she convinces them to take all her belongings but saving her dog. The little picture story in the margin shows the underground world of the trolls and the daily routine of one sleepy hedgehog. It’s one cute little ‘hog.