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Berlioz the Bear
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About the Author

With over thirty four million books in print, Jan Brett is one of the nation's foremost author illustrators of children's books. Jan lives in a seacoast town in Massachusetts, close to where she grew up. During the summer her family moves to a home in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.

As a child, Jan Brett decided to be an illustrator and spent many hours reading and drawing. She says, "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books. Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists. The detail in my work helps to convince me, and I hope others as well, that such places might be real."

As a student at the Boston Museum School, she spent hours in the Museum of Fine Arts. "It was overwhelming to see the room-size landscapes and towering stone sculptures, and then moments later to refocus on delicately embroidered kimonos and ancient porcelain," she says. "I'm delighted and surprised when fragments of these beautiful images come back to me in my painting."

Travel is also a constant inspiration. Together with her husband, Joe Hearne, who is a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jan visits many different countries where she researches the architecture and costumes that appear in her work. "From cave paintings to Norwegian sleighs, to Japanese gardens, I study the traditions of the many countries I visit and use them as a starting point for my children's books."

Reviews

K-Gr 3-- A wonderful blending of elements into a cohesive, thoroughly entertaining work that subtly introduces young readers to the world of music. While practicing, Berlioz the Bear detects a strange buzzing noise coming from his double bass. On the way to the concert with the rest of the bear band, he is so preoccupied with the sound that he accidently runs the wagon into a hole. The lead animal, a mule, refuses to budge, despite a series of animals who unsuccessfully try to pull the wagon out. At that moment, what should fly out of Berlioz's bass but a very angry bee that takes out its frustration on the mule's hindquarters. The sting does what the other animals failed to do; the wagonload of musicians goes careening into the village at full speed and arrives just in the nick of time. In tone, Brett's cumulative story has elements of traditional folklore, and her spare text begs to be read aloud. Her pen-and-ink, watercolor, and colored-pencil illustrations are richly, often humorously, detailed, and they sweep over each double-page spread. The brushwork is distinct, and the palette is a well-organized blend of earth tones with touches of red and blue. The artist's penchant for borders is evident, here taking the shape of a proscenium arch. The top portion of each arch shows the villagers' preparations for the performance while the side panels depict various animals enroute to the concert. The borders, manner of dress for the animals, and scenery all have a distinct flavor of traditional Austrian and Swiss culture. --Denise Anton Wright, Library Book Selection Service, Inc., Bloomington, IL

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