Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes Throwback Reads and Hot for Cybils!

[Monday Reading] Girls, Art, and Ingenuity in 2014 Fiction Picturebooks

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.

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Here is the sign up page and the January-February linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, courtesy of Pansing books. Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details. 

Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.
Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.

Part of our current reading theme includes giving love to CYBILS (Hot for Cybils!). I am also very privileged to be among the second round judges for the Fiction Picture Book category. Before I look at the top seven finalists, I thought it best to explore the other titles that have been nominated but didn’t make it to the second round. These titles also spoke to me as they are about artistic girls and showcase ingenuity, persistence, and the use of art and colors to express frustration, pain, and love.

IMG_9037Louise Loves Art

Written and Illustrated byKelly Light
Published byBalzer + Bray: An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Louise is a single-minded, very passionate, focused little girl who as the title says, loves art. Coincidentally (or not), her little brother who is doing everything he can to get his sister’s attention, is also named Art.

Louise clearly takes pride in being an artist because as she noted “It’s my imagination on the outside.”

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As the scattered drawings suggest, Louise is preparing for an exhibit, and she is determined to come up with a masterpiece, her piece-de-resistance that she will put in a very strategic position in the house: The Gallery du Fridge! Where else?

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Little does Louise realize that as she fusses and plans, as she doodles and draws, measures and sketches, her little brother Art is contributing little bits and pieces of his own that could either make or break Louise’s plans of being a celebrated artist:

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The picture above clearly demonstrates how important it is that the images depict more than what is found in the text – this is what gives real picturebook art its edge over other illustrated children’s materials. Children would undoubtedly fall all over themselves to warn the seemingly-clueless and oblivious Louise about the impending disaster that is in store for her! How she deals with this cat-astrophe, I shall leave for you to discover.

I like everything about this picturebook: from the sharp focus of this young artist, to her appreciation of the things that are of value, her cat with all its perfectly-feline qualities, and the endpapers! How could I forget the endpapers:

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A brilliant, fun, lighthearted book that would be enjoyed by young readers everywhere.

The Most Magnificent ThingIMG_9045

Written and Illustrated by: Ashley Spires
Published by: Kids Can Press, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The book begins with this perfectly ordinary girl with her dog doing most everything together. They make quite a pair: while she loves making things, her dog enjoys unmaking them. Then one day she is hit by a bright idea: she is going to make the most magnificent thing. And so she makes plans, sketches her ideas and makes diagrams, hires an assistant (dogs make the most wonderful assistants), gathers her materials and proceeds according to plan…

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Except that things don’t seem to work according to plan. Her creations simply do not feel right, and so she discards one…

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then another… and another. The reader will have to admire this young girl’s tenacity and her awareness of exactly what she wants; until it gets the better of her. Her inventions simply fail to match that which she has in mind, inevitably making her frustrated, upset, until she eventually explodes:

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And this is where the calming presence of the assistant kicks in as he invites her for a walk. As the frustration and anger gradually recede, this young girl’s realization of what it is exactly that constitutes the most magnificent thing is absolutely spot-on for any young scientist, inventor, engineer out there. There is no one singular perfect plan that goes absolutely right – but an assortment of leftover bright ideas put together in ingenious ways – how this young girl manages that, I shall leave for you to discover.

IMG_9052Emily’s Blue Period

Written byCathleen Daly Illustrations by: Lisa Brown
Published byA Neal Porter Book: Roaring Brook Press, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Unlike the first two picturebooks shared above, this one may even be considered an illustrated chapter book as the entire story is divided into five short chapters. Just like Louise, Emily’s self-definition is that of an artist. And not just any artist, as she feels an affinity with Pablo Picasso – so much so that she even wants to change her name:

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It is in the second chapter that the reader learns about Emily’s mixed up family situation, with her father living in his own little cube surrounded by boxes and cubes everywhere. While Emily deals with her torn emotions using colors and Picasso’s collage and cubism, her brother deals with his frustration and pain quite differently:

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Surprisingly, Emily does not excel in art while in school – not because of her lack of predisposition for the subject, but because she does not like the material that her teacher wants the class to use (which is charcoal). Emily declares that she is in her “blue period” and that is that.

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The quiet understanding in which her mother deals with that declaration is, as they say, one for the books. Reminded me a little bit of David Almond’s My Name Is MinaI have always gravitated towards picturebooks such as this one. The ones that deal with more complex, layered, difficult issues; the ones that defy categorization and easy classification; the ones that pick at the scabs in your heart to reveal something true, raw, and breathing within. This is a beautiful picturebook and definitely one that I will recommend to my own teacher-students and fellow bibliophiles.

Currently Reading…

I finished reading The Sandman Volume 2: The Doll’s House last week and will now be starting with Dream Country. I am just glad that I am making progress with The Sandman series, finally. I would be sharing my reflections about the series for our Comic Reading theme in September-October.

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I also made sure that I finished reading The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill last week for me to start reading SNOB-Geeks’ book-of-the-month: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

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11 comments on “[Monday Reading] Girls, Art, and Ingenuity in 2014 Fiction Picturebooks

  1. Your books look great! Enjoy your week 🙂

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  2. I’d become such a fan of Louise Loves Art. Great book about siblings and,of course, art!

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  3. Your books look like a lot of fun! Hope you have a fun week of reading.

    Brooke at http://www.brookeblogs.com

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  4. Louise Loves Art is coming in the mail… cannot wait. Loved the glimpses into it, thank you! Happy reading your way…

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  5. I liked Louise Loves Art but didn’t love it as I was expecting to. Not sure why not as it would seem to have everything I need in a PB. Perhaps because I was still under the thrall of the similarly-themed but much richer Emily’s Blue Period when I read it. Emily’s Blue Period is one of my favorite books of 2014–PB or otherwise! Your comments about Louise Loves Art helped me appreciate the book more. It’s one I will try again.

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  6. Thank you for these reviews. I loved The Most Magnificent thing and Emily’s Blue Period. I am not sure if I’ve purchased Louise Loves Art or not, but I’ll look forward to reading it. I adored Fangirl. The problem with it, is that nothing else I’ve read of her’s has compared!

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  7. Great collection of books, and I really like thinking about using them all together. The Most Magnificent Thing is one of my favorites from this past year – I think we’ve all been there with our frustration at some time!

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  8. Ah- Emily’s Blue Period is truly a wow title. Really so fantastic. I loved it for the reasons you did – the layers, more complex plot and the subject it tackled. Just so impressed. I bought it as soon as I read it in the bookstore.

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  9. Love Seuss, love Kelly, love Louise and Art 😀

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  10. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Boys in 2014 Picturebooks – From Ninja to Troublemakers, Kid Sheriffs and Messed Up Stories, Plus Bad Byes Too | Gathering Books

  11. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Wild Girls Who Do Not Wish to be Princesses: Ada Twist Scientist, Rosie Revere Engineer, and Young Charlotte Filmmaker – Gathering Books

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