By Kathleen Sweeney
As a BEA newbie, I hadn’t counted on being starstruck by a children’s book celebrity siting. I was strolling through the Penguin Books pavilion scanning books when there she was, Jan Brett, the author and illustrator extraordinaire, no less than a legend on my daughters’ bookshelves, passing out swag bags emblazoned with her book covers for Home Before Christmas and a reissue of A Night Before Christmas with multimedia tie-ins. Yes, that Jan Brett, who spun The Mitten, The Trouble with Trolls, Comet’s Nine Lives and the absolute top of the book pile fave, Armadillo Rodeo, about a near-sighted armadillo who falls in love with a cowgirl’s boot at a Texas rodeo.
I waited my turn in line, then reached out a hand to thank Jan Brett for the plethora of gorgeous books (fan language at its most gushy) and told her how much Armadillo Rodeo fed into my daughter’s penchant for all things horsey, adding that I’d recently given a copy to my six-year niece to continue the lineage of bedtime hilarity. Jan smiled. “You know when that crazy armadillo eats the chili pepper, burns his mouth on fire then says, ‘What’s next?’ Well that’s become our family slogan: ‘What’s next’…”
So yes, we come to the BEA for networking, inspiration and industry trending on book trailers and web content, but it’s also about the books, and remembering the primal reading experience, where “What’s next” translates into “Read another one.”
When I returned to the Penguin Pavilion area later, Jan Brett had disappeared, no doubt off in search of her own “What’s next”…