Author Brings Taste of Russia to The Plains

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Colored pencils and paper littered the gymnasium floor at The Plains Elementary on Wednesday. Young children looked down with furrowed brows, not at cell phones, but at meticulously drawn lines and shades of color.

Under the direction of children’s author and illustrator Jan Brett, the children slowly drew one of the characters from her newest book, The Turnip. Every child drew the young badger differently, which was part of Brett’s lesson.

She compared drawing a picture to the fingerprints at the end of the children’s hands.

“No fingerprint is the same,” Brett said. “It’s the same when you draw a picture. No one can draw it like you.”

Not only were there pencils and paper to help the dozens of children and adults learn, but Brett also pulled a live chicken out of a box, along with eggs from the chicken, to help explain one animal featured in many of her books. A life-size hedgehog named Hedgie, who also appears in many of her books, was also on hand for hugs and pictures.

The Turnip tells the story of a family of badgers who come across a giant turnip in the garden and try everything to get it out of the ground before the ground freezes for the winter. The characters in the book are emblazoned on the side of her tour bus, which is taking her to 23 cities across the country.

Brett said she received inspiration for the book after going on a trip to Russia and learning a folktale there. She and her husband visited an ancient city, where they found architecture filled with details, like etchings of what looked like a familiar vegetable.

“It looked like an upside down turnip,” Brett said. “So I decided to use that for…homes in the book.

It only took Brett about 10 minutes to get through the drawing of the badger, but she said it takes much longer to finish the illustrations in her books.

“It takes about an hour to do an inch with my watercolors,” Brett said.

Copies of Brett’s newest book being sold at the event were gone before she was done speaking to the crowd, and a line circling the gym waited more than an hour for autographs from the author.