Living & Entertainment

Author Jan Brett brings her children’s book tour to JBLM Saturday

Children’s book author Jan Brett has 39 million books in print, so she could jet from big city to big city on her book tours. Instead she prefers to travel by bus and visit smaller cities.

Brett’s 23-city bus tour is coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Saturday morning and later that same day to Poulsbo. She also is making stops in Leavenworth and Spokane. The visit will include a book signing, drawing demonstration, art lesson and talk.

Brett’s annual bus tours began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“It started in the aftermath of uncertainty of travel. It really worked out well because before we had always gone to a big hub. This way we could just go point to point and go to some of the smaller communities where people are really interested in books,” Brett said.

The tour bus allows her to bring her easel, sound system, posters and other material.

Brett’s books contain elaborate and detailed illustrations. While drawing is her greatest passion, her fans also are attracted to the stories about anthropomorphized animals.

“One in 3 are a teacher or a librarian,” Brett said of her fan base. “They really have to sell reading to young children. I flatter myself to think my books capture that young audience.”

She also has a preteen fan base she attributes to J.K. Rowling’s books about Harry Potter.

“They’re into having a book collection and having the author sign it. I got some energy off of (Rowling’s) success,” Brett said.

Brett started out as an illustrator. She only added stories when publishers told her she needed to. “I went home, added (a story) and surprise-surprise, it got published.” That book, “Fritz and the Beautiful Horses,” came out in 1980.

“I’ve always loved telling stories, but being a children’s author is not what I intended,” she said.

Brett puts out one book a year — and the illustrations take up most of her time.

“I do it for myself, that 6-year-old person I can remember. But when I go out on the book tours, it’s a different perspective. It’s really exciting to see these kids come with the art work they’ve done at home. They’ll be so talented. It just makes me feel really good about the future,” Brett said.

In her appearances, which are geared toward children, she gives an art lesson and tells the story behind the book.

One of Brett’s trademarks is the elaborate content-filled borders she surrounds her illustrations with.

“It tells an alternative story or it may have some important part of the plot — a twist, a secret. I like playing with that idea,” Brett said.

Brett, who lives in New England, has used Christmas as a theme in about half of her books, including this year’s “The Animals’ Santa.” She said she’s attracted to winter climates and the snow aids her illustrations.

“In a way it’s kind of a cheat. The snow really brings out the detail. It makes a good presentation. I never did in intentionally. There’s something very transformative about it — when it snows, everything looks completely changed.”