My Rating: 4 Stars
A friend and I recently went to see Jan Brett at a signing for her latest book, The Turnip. Jan Brett is probably most famous for The Mitten, first published in 1989, yet she is a prolific author/illustrator with a large catalog of work, including The Umbrella, Hedgie’s Surprise and Mossy.
The Turnip begins with Badger Girl finding an enormous turnip in the garden. When autumn arrives she tries to pull it up, but it won’t budge. Badger Boy offers to help, but it still won’t come loose. Mother Badger, Father Badger and a long line of characters, including Hedgie, pull on the turnip together, but it’s no use. The snow starts to fall. If it freezes, they won’t get the turnip out until next spring, and everyone is hungry for turnip pancakes. Finally, a rooster trying to stay out of the cooking pot comes along and says he’ll give it a go. Just as he’s giving it a tug with his beak, out flies the turnip with the rooster on top. The illustrations on the side of the pages show that all along a mother bear has been preparing her cubs for hibernation. When they find the turnip in their bed, they kick it out so they can get some sleep. The rooster, seen as the hero for pulling up the turnip, is invited to stay with the Badger family as long as he wishes.
As someone with a preference for simple illustration, it took me several readings of this story to really appreciate what is going on. It’s a lot to visually take in at first, but once my brain settled down a bit, I finally saw the magical world created by Jan Brett that is full of character and humor. The ornate details are fitting for a story inspired by a Russian folktale. Jan Brett’s illustrations essentially force you to slow down, have some patience and really look.
If her book tour travels near you, I recommend going. She gives a presentation where she lets you in on some of her illustrating secrets and gives an inspiring talk to the young future illustrators and storytellers in the audience. Hedgie comes along on the tour to take pictures with the kids, and you get to meet another special character from the book.
The Turnip is a lovely addition to Jan Brett’s body of work.
What’s your favorite Jan Brett book? Let me know in the comments section.
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