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Monday, October 23, 2006

The Hedgie Blasts Off Launch

We love hedgehogs, and we love the work of Jan Brett, a children's book author and illustrator known for her beautiful, detailed artwork. So we were totally jazzed to find out that she was writing a book called Hedgie Blasts Off. And then we found that Brett was coming to Houston for a signing! Wow!

So yesterday we went to a nearby Barnes & Noble for what we thought would be about a half hour. The signing was at six, and we figured that we'd be there until six-thirty, maybe seven at the outside, and then we'd go to dinner (which is awfully early for us to have dinner). Eventually we began to hope the restaurant would still be open by the time we left (it closes at 11). I think we finally got out of there at 8:15.

Niles forgot to bring the camera[1], so we had to make do with cell phone pictures, and so will you. In the end, we exceeded the phone's capacity, so Niles was frantically emailing himself photos so he could delete them and take more.

The first thing that we saw, upon rolling up to B&N, was Brett's rock star-style tour bus:

_Hedgie Blasts Off_ tour bus

Inside the store, there was quite a line. The middle of the floor was filled with people (with a large proportion of kids, of course), and quite a few more arrived after us. At the front they were giving out purple wristbands to the first 275 people (or rather, groups), and orange wristbands to anyone else. The orange people might not get their books signed, depending on how late it got. But we never saw anyone with an orange wristband, not even at the tail end.

I wish we'd taken pictures of the crowd, but I didn't think of it, and besides, we didn't have a lot of room on the phone. But I did get Niles to document the massive police presence:

Massive police presence

No, really. These weren't security guards, but HPD officers. Armed! The one on the right was there the entire time. For the first hour or so he kept looking around alertly, as if a jihadi might spring from behind the coffee table books. Really, did they have trouble at a previous signing? Tots rioting? Parents hitting each other with hefty copies of Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury? Dirty bomb threats?[2]

We weren't there for too long before Jan Brett arrived and gave a little talk.

Jan Brett speaking and sketching

She talked to the kids in the audience about drawing and creativity and whatnot. She said that when she was a little girl, she looooved horses, and usually that's all she drew. But sometimes she drew other things, usually to do with space. Hey! I did that too! Sometimes I combined the two by imagining winged horses that traveled through outer space.

Finished Hedgie sketch

In the photo above she's beginning a sketch of Hedgie. Watching an artist at work is a little like watching magic. The pen flicks around, making random marks, and before you know it there's a picture. Not cartoon like anyone could draw, but a real picture, with depth and shadow. That's the mysterious part -- knowing where to put the random pen-flickings.

Brett talked a little bit about that, about adding details to flesh out the image. But it still seems like magic to me.

That's the finished sketch.

Jan Brett's Undead Hedgehog Army of Cuteness

On the floor behind Brett you see the Undead Hedgehog Army of Cuteness:

After the store closed, they rose and began their takeover of the Earth! If they woke up from their naps in time. Maybe the cops were there to keep them from mischief.

I think these were puppets. They were everywhere. There were two cute little blonde girls in front of us who had puppets, and we got to hear the puppets play the clapping game (e.g. "A sailor went to sea sea sea to see what he could see see see...") for about an hour. Joy.

Hedgie waving

Later, Hedgie himself turned up:


Many of the kids[3] had their pictures taken with him, including the two in front of us. That was just the cutest, blondest, pinkest thing you ever saw (they were wearing pink) and all by itself spiked my blood sugar enough to be able to carry on to the end of the signing.

At last we made it to the front of the line:

Jan Brett signing our books
That's not a terribly good picture of Jan Brett. I think Niles was trying to make sure he got the banner behind her. Being (nominal) grown-ups, we didn't have a lot to say to her. She mentioned her web site (did I say she has a web site?) and we said that we liked the cross-stitch patterns she has there. I've stitched one of them:

My Hedgie cross-stitch

We got two books signed, Hedgie Blasts Off, and an older book, The Mitten, which also stars a hedgehog, and which, inexplicably, we didn't already have.

We also got goodies! There was a card of the book cover:

_Hedgie Blasts Off_ cover card thingy

and a sort of newsletter for the book:

Brochure: About _Hedgie Blasts Off_
That's just its cover. Inside there were some drawings and pictures, an explanation of how Brett came to write this particular book (she went up with the Blue Angels once! -- as a passenger, I mean), and a picture of Hedgie to color.

And we also got a poster which turned out to be for her Africa book, Honey...Honey...Lion! Beautiful, but disappointing, in that it contained no hedgehogs. (I couldn't find a picture on the web, and it was too big to scan.)

Linky Love:
Jan Brett's home page: Coloring books! Cross-stitching! Murals! Ideas! Projects! Rides! Games! All singing! All dancing!

Jan Brett books at Barnes & Noble.

Jan Brett books at Amazon.

Go there! DO IT NOW![TM]

[1] Not exactly true. We discussed it, but neither of us thought there'd be much to take pictures of, except Brett herself, and she might not want her picture taken. So we just didn't bring it. But I'm going to blame Niles anyway.

[2]Does anyone see the words "dirty bomb" and imagine a shower of Hustler centerfolds? No, huh?

[3]And one or two adults. But not me -- I still have some dignity. Just a smidgen. I'm saving it for an emergency.