Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who's going to blow the house in?

Jan Brett has fashioned yet another dazzling example of her signature artwork in her newest book, The 3 Little Dassies.  Widely traveled gaining inspiration for her books, she collects details of the flora, fauna, culture, customs and clothing.  The locations shown in her stories are a true reflection of that part of the world.  Knowing just a little bit more about people, places, animals or vegetation unlike their own, is a given for the reader of Jan Brett's books.  Using watercolor and gouache (watercolor paint which is opaque rather than transparent) each highly detailed illustration not only complements the storyline but true to her style the side panels tell another tale giving the reader a glimpse into that which is to come.

After making a trip to Namibia located in southern Africa with her husband, Jan kept thinking about seeing the rock hyraxes (dassies) and the agama lizard.  Having been introduced to the Namibian women and their traditional dress, Jan acquired many pieces of the brightly colored fabrics as well as varying types of grasses native to the area.  She uses these fabrics not only to dress her characters but as frames for each piece of art.  Never missing a chance to surround her reader with the story Brett begins and ends this book (endpapers) showing woven grasses dotted with insects found in Namibia.

The 3 Little Dassies is, of course, an adaptation of The Three Little Pigs but readers will find it richer in characters, lessons and a wee bit of a pourquoi message.   As the dassies leave home they meet the Agama Man at the base of a mountain.  He welcomes them having been lonely for too long.

Making their homes of grass, driftwood and stone resting as each is completed the dassies settle in their new surroundings.  It is the wily eagle, chicks in her nest on the mountain top, that seeks out the dassies for food.  Chanting

I'll flap and I'll clap and I'll blow your house in. 

she manages to fly upward with the first two sisters, Mimbi and Pimbi. 

Equally as clever is the Agama Man who sees a chance to save the already captured dassies.  Mirroring the story's predecessors is the eagle's flight down the chimney only to have her feathers severely burned changing their color for generations to see.  At Timibi's stone house all are reunited celebrating with their extended family who have come to live.

I have long been a collector of Jan Brett books enjoying them again and again as have my students over the years.  We eagerly await each of her new books.  Reading The 3 Little Dassies to them and adding it to our library media center collection will be a joy. As Jan Brett says, A picture is never finished until I feel I can walk into a page.  We will all be gladly walking with you, Jan Brett.

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