One of my favorite children’s book author/illustrators is Jan Brett. A Massachusetts native, she is one of the most prolific American children’s book authors with over forty one million books in print. She has written 35 books set in 14 different countries. Her illustrations are breathtaking and her stories are unique and entertaining, enjoyable for adults and children alike.
Many are drawn from different cultural fables and traditions, while others are original tales, all with rich, detailed illustrations drawn from Brett’s first hand research and travels. Her books are perfect to read aloud with kids about 3-8 years old.
Here are the Best of Jan Brett’s Picture Books:
- One of my favorite books is Mossy, about a turtle who grows a beautiful garden on her shell. In addition to the beautiful depiction of Lilypad Pond and the Edwardian dress and scenery of Dr. Carolina’s museum, Mossy is a story about learning to admire the world around us while also respecting the freedom of the creatures who share our home.
2. Fritz and the Beautiful Horses is an endearing tale with a beautiful theme for children, teaching that heroes may be found in even the most unlikely circumstances. It is a must read for all children, and if your child likes horse lover, this will be a particular favorite as the illustrations of the horses are exquisite, with stunning details and rich colors.
3. In the beautiful classic, The Mitten, a series of woodland animals find comfort in a lost mitten. In a humorous retelling of a Ukrainian folktale, your family will be delighted with the charming characters and the poetic language of this story.
4. Everyone will enjoy the beautiful setting of The Umbrella, where animals of the Costa Rican rainforest crowd into a boy’s banana-leaf umbrella. This delightful story is a favorite of mine because it introduces my children to unusual animals we hadn’t encountered before, includes some basic Spanish words and phrases (and their translation), and shows what happens when you put too many animals in one umbrella!
5. In a colorful retelling of the three little pigs, The 3 Little Dassies is the vibrant story of three dassie sisters who make a new home on the mountain, only to find that a family of eagles lives nearby. Set in Namibia, this story is filled with beautiful patterns and illustrations and is a wonderful retelling of a classic fable, teaching that hard work and friendship can overcome difficult obstacles. I also love that children must pay attention to the pictures as much as the text, for parts of the story are told only in the side panels without narration, teaching them to be observant and look for undiscussed details.
6. The Three Snow Bears is a reimagining of Goldilocks, where the Inuit girl Aloo-ki stumbles upon the igloo of a playful polar bear family. This retelling has a twist, the polar bears save Aloo-ki’s sled dogs when they float away on an ice floe and the two groups become friends after Aloo-ki’s adventure. I love the stunning illustrations in this book and my son likes being able to compare and contrast the different versions of the Goldilocks story. (Jan Brett’s Goldilocks and the 3 Bears and The Mermaid — a gorgeous underwater retelling set off the coast of Okinawa — also recount the classic fable.)
7. A musical favorite! In Berlioz the Bear a band of musicians gets stuck on their way to perform at a gala ball when Berlioz is distracted by the buzzing noise in his double base. Can some helpful animals save the day and rescue the band? This charming folk tale ultimately shows that size and strength are not the only things that matter, while the beautiful, detailed illustrations — including the side panels that foreshadow events to come — will draw you in to this charming Bavarian world.
8. I think this is Jan Brett’s most interesting book, and an excellent choice for children who love dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. The First Dog tells the story of Kip the cave boy and Paleowolf, whose warnings protect Kip from a Cave Bear, Mammoth, and Saber-Toothed Cat, leading the two to become close companions. Brett’s stunning illustrations — inspired by cave drawings and artifacts from Natural History museums — imagine a landscape filled with creatures we can only dream of.
No matter which books you choose, Jan Brett offers many wonderful options for readers of all tastes and interests. She also has many wonderful seasonal books such as, The Easter Egg, Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, and The Animals’ Santa, any of which may be the perfect addition to next year’s holiday book collection.