Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Willow - Denise Brennan-Nelson & Rosemarie Brennan

Illustrator: Cyd Moore
For: Kids, K-1-2ish
Published: 2008
Rating: 4.5
Read: October 22, 2008
Endpapers: Purple that's cooly and completely covered with doodles in white.

Think outside the box. My all-time favorite motto.

Take an uptight art teacher and a free-thinking young girl who loves art and what to you get? This story. I've known a few Willows through the years. And I've known a few Miss Hawthorn's!

The art teacher, Miss Hawthorn, wants all the kids to draw in the same uniform, realistic way. A tree that's a brown trunk and mass of green above. Not a pink tree, or a tree with one big blue apple for the leaves, Willow is the only student to draw what she sees when she closes her eyes. And she brings in her "famous art" book to share with a frowning Miss Hawthorn. Kids aren't allowed to talk or daydream or look out the window in her class. And when Christmas comes, all the other teachers receive presents, but she receives none. But wait! This year, after all the students have left for the Christmas break and the school is empty, she returns to her desk and finds a beautifully-wrapped gift. It's from Willow. And it's her "famous art" book.

Since there's no one waiting fomr Miss Hawthorn at home, she sits down and reads the book. Then she pulls out paper, paint, colored pencils, and begins to doodle. She really gets into it. She must spend the night right there at school, experimenting with color and technique. And when the kids return to school after the break, they return to a completely changed art room....and a completely changed teacher.

Fanciful and fun fun fun. Now let's talk about the illustrations. And the font. Cool font. Artistic but easy to read. Some of teh illustrations are encircled in a water-colory way on the page with the text. Quite a bit of white on those pages, which brings more attention to the story. But the single-page and double-pages that are completely covered in color and detail - such detail- are lots of fun. Lots. This is another book where I'd like to take some of the illustrations and frame them, placing them all over the house and my classroom to make me happy. They're happy pictures.

Great book. The change is Miss Hawthorn is a little unbelievable - most of the art teachers I've met have not been uptight and afraid to think outside the box. But it's a great book to discuss what might have happened to make her this way. Real things happen to real people, and a teacher who loved art enough to teach it would certainly have the creativity and love of color that the Miss Hawthorn-at-the-end-of -the-book had. Yup. This was a good one.

It brings back Fly on the Wall (Lockhart), where the protagonist's artistic style is so disliked by her art teacher, and how that art teacher tries to change her style. Ridiculous.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once grown up." -- Pablo Picasso

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