Teaching With Jan Brett’s Books

Like most teachers, I love Jan Brett’s books.  Every year, usually in January, I take out my ever-growing collection of her books and introduce one of my favorite author/illustrators to my kindergarten students.  Friends, I can tell you with all honesty that I want to BE Jan Brett.  I would love to be able to draw like she does.  It’s a talent that I will never have.  Wouldn’t it be great to travel the world to gain inspiration for stories and have a farm filled with animals who also help fuel the creative fire?

The picture, below, is from her book called The Hat.  She shares the story of her inspiration for this book on her website.  She has a pet hedgehog who wanders around the house.  One night, at bedtime, the hedgehog was not around.  She went to bed, even though she was a bit concerned about the missing pet.  In the morning, she noticed that there was a sock on the floor and it was moving.  It turned out that the hedgehog had crawled into the sock and gotten it stuck on her prickles.  Her little hedgehog inspired The Hat to be written.  I always share this story with my students because it helps them to see that things that happen in their lives can be turned into stories.

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I have so many favorite things about Jan Brett’s books.  I love the Scandinavian flair that many of her illustrations have, down to the tiny details on the socks!  The peek-a-boo windows provide a glimpse of something that is about to happen or something that is happening simultaneously in the story.  My students pick up on these and start using them to help make their predictions in our read alouds.

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Jan Brett has so many books that I have to store them in three different boxes in my room.  If she keeps writing, I’ll surely run out of storage space, but I’ll also surely keep buying them!  I don’t keep my Jan Brett books out all year.  I don’t want kids browsing through them until I’m able to introduce them one at a time.  There are so many different elements I want the kids to notice.  In Cinders, we make connections to other stories and notice her use of animals as characters.  The Three Snow Bears has an obvious connection to Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  The Hat, The Mitten, and The Umbrella are classics that I think every child needs to read.  I also love pointing out, when reading The Umbrella, that it is a spin on The Mitten.  Jan Brett also shares on her website that she knew she wanted to make The Umbrella set in the Rainforest, but she didn’t know much about it.  She visited the Rainforest and spent lots of time doing research before making the book.  Oh, and I can’t forget about Honey, Honey, Lion!  It is the BEST book for teaching onomatopoeia.  The kids love trying to use these sound words in their own writing.  By reading these books and watching Jan Brett’s videos on her website, we are truly getting to know our mentor author and illustrator.

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Speaking of her website, make sure to visit Janbrett.com and check out her work.  She works SO hard to connect with her readers and that’s what makes her my favorite author and illustrator.  Be SURE to go to the videos tab and click on her videos.  This is where you will really get to know her as a person, author, illustrator, and mentor.  I always encourage parents to watch these videos with their kids and try out some of the “how to draw” activities.  I planned to add links to a few of my favorite videos, but  I can’t narrow it down.  I love them all.  I love the stories she shares, the information she gives her readers about her job as an author and illustrator, and her tutorials.  Check these books and videos out and let me know how you like them!

Happy reading!

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