Jan Brett, a Massachusetts-based author and illustrator of children’s books including “The Mitten,” is embarking on a tour for her newest release, “The Turnip.” Brett will sign books at an exhibit of her art at Rose Hill Manor Park on Dec. 1. 72 Hours asked Brett about her work and her new tour.

How do you choose folktales to write about?

It has to have an animal that appeals to me, number one. And sometimes it’s something that goes back to my childhood that I really loved and want to revisit. I think the third thing is that there would be some sort of color or country, that would be fascinating to me. So I could go visit there and bring from that country some of the costumes or colors or foods that would be interesting to draw.

What details do you notice when you visit a place you’d like to use as a backdrop in a book?

I love going to, for example, in “The Turnip,” the Russian museum of ethnography. So I saw all the beautiful clothes that they wear every day ... Lapti [Russian shoes], they’re woven out of birch bark. You could wear them out in the farmyard, and they could just be disposed of when they’re dirty. I saw them in the museum and I bought a pair. They’re kind of neat looking.

What do you enjoy about your book tours?

Always the best thing, every time I go out, is when children bring me their drawings. ... There’s something about the spontaneity and the sense of energy and joy of life children have when they draw. I love seeing them and I love being able to encourage them and tell them how great their artwork is, because being an artist is a two-way street.

How would you describe daily life on the tour?

At the end of the day, usually I flop down facefirst on the bed in the back [of the tour bus] with all my clothes on.

The best part is doing the drawing for the children, and I tell them some of my secrets. One secret would be, let’s say you’re drawing or coloring and something doesn’t look quite right and it’s very frustrating. [If you] hold it up to the mirror, it’s like looking at it for the first time. And when you’re drawing, I always tell them that the eyes are the most important point in the picture, because we’re human beings and that’s where we gravitate.

What settings do you have in mind for future books?

[The next plot is] Goldilocks and the three bears, so Goldilocks is going to be a mermaid. I would go to Japan often because my daughter was living there ... and we’d always go snorkeling. We went to this Japanese island that was very far off ... I think the three bears are going to be octopi.

Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.

Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.​

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