Quote of the Month

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




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Garden on the Move

Twenty-four titles are stacked next to me, all by the same author.  Prior to 1981 when the first book, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, was both written and illustrated by her, the only other work to be found were her pictures in the title, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning published a year earlier.  With a few more titles to her credit, a characteristic style of borders, reflecting additional details of setting, flora and fauna, or foreshadowing, had become a part of her books that readers relished, looked forward to with anticipation.

Nearly forty volumes later, Jan Brett, has an artistic technique that is hers and hers alone.  Immersing readers in a title's setting with her exquisite paintings done in watercolor and gouache, she takes us to places we might never go.  Her newest title, Mossy (G. P. Putnam's Sons) is the result of observations made when she and her husband were enjoying a summer morning on their dock on Goose Lake.  Lucky for we readers, Jan Brett is able to see stories wherever she may be.


On a misty, moisty morning, a young turtle stood at the edge of Lilypad Pond.  Her name was Mossy.

This turtle, an eastern box turtle, is rather fond of her home.  So fond, in fact, that moss, ferns and eventually wild flowers begin to grow and bloom upon her shell.  Little does she know, when she looks at her image in the pond, her appearance is being noticed by others.

As she peers into the water one day, a face other than her own is looking back.  It's Scoot, another eastern box turtle.  Although he thinks her garden is lovely, it's Mossy that's captured his heart.  It's turtle love!

As the two, eyes locked, make their way toward one another, Mossy is lifted up, up and away.  Oh, no...Dr. Carolina, curator of a local natural history museum, believes Mossy will be her star exhibit.  Nothing could top the appeal of a colorful garden growing on a turtle's back.

She and her niece, Tory, design what they believe is the perfect home for Mossy.  But how can not being at Lilypad Pond be called home?  Mossy misses Scoot.  And Scoot waits for Mossy.  Summer moves into fall and fall into winter.  Mossy's popularity grows.

A visit by Tory's class, a question and spring's arrival cause the museum to be closed.  What's going on?  What's happened to Mossy?  The labor of two strangers answers all questions bringing this story to an unexpected but wonderfully natural conclusion.  Jan Brett wouldn't have it any other way.


When reading the narrative scripted by Jan Brett, it's not hard to imagine walking in the woods, coming upon a pond with an eastern box turtle sunning herself upon a rock.  Jan Brett would point to her, drawing attention to the beauty growing on her carapace.  Then she would begin a story stepping back to the Victorian times about this turtle and her mate, a naturalist and her niece blending the two tales into one of respect, admiration and faithfulness fulfilled.


If you open the jacket (cover) Scoot, on the back, is moving right along toward Mossy on the front as she glances back at him.  The opening and closing endpapers, identical, are an intricate montage of a myriad of mosses.  A small oval portrait of Mossy is centered on the title page surrounded by a collection of feathers.

Like a naturalist's sketchbook each two page spread features a collection; moths, mosses, fungi, wildflowers, rocks and minerals, sea shells, butterflies beetles, fossils, seeds, orchids, feathers, and butterflies.  Framing the illustrations these collections are themselves each framed with delicate lines  depicting new and numerous types of borders.  A realistic array of colors are captured in each picture making the reader feel as though they might step right into this spectacular world.

Having been a fan of Jan Brett's illustrations and stories for years, it would be hard for me to not like one of her books.  Without a doubt I am placing Mossy in my top ten.  I have already read this title again and again.  The one thing I have not been able to find yet is Hedgie, usually hidden in all her titles, but what I did find (oh, Jan Brett, most clever) is something  sure to please a very special person.

Not only will this book be enjoyed again and again by readers but the possibilities for extending the text are huge given all the natural collections displayed on every turn of page.  The link for Jan Brett's home page is embedded in her name above.

Mossy bookmarks can be found at this link.  A 2013 calendar using Mossy as a theme is here.  To make postcards with the Mossy illustrations click this link.  For news about this title, Jan Brett's ideas and extras about Mossy click here.

To see how Jan Brett draws Mossy watch this video.

1 comment:

  1. I've been a Jan Brett fan for ages, too! Haven't seen Mossy yet. It looks gorgeous! Will be especially interesting since we have several box turtles wandering around our woods. We've named them according to their personalities: BoxCar (because he always uses the driveway), BoxWood (because he likes to hide behind trees), and BoxLunch (the biggest one; obviously he's been eating everybody else's food). Thanks for the great review; the video's great too :).

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