[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Gift of Seeing in Polacco’s “The Art of Miss Chew”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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We have just recently launched our new reading theme for September – October: Into the Wild – The Untamed, the Mischievous, Artists and Rebels in Literature.

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The Art Of Miss Chew

Written and Illustrated by: Patricia Polacco
Published by: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012 ISBN: 0399257039 (ISBN13: 9780399257032) 
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Patricia Polacco is quite known for her biographical picturebooks that feature the wonderful teachers/educators who have shaped her being and way of thinking. The first one that I read was Junkyard WondersThen there is Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece and the much-celebrated Thank You, Mr. Falker. 

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In The Art Of Miss Chew, Polacco introduces the reader to Miss Violet Chew, her Chinese-American art teacher who taught her the art of “seeing.” In her other picturebooks mentioned above, Polacco has shared her difficulties when it comes to reading and how her dyslexia has adversely affected her marks in school. In this book, her teacher Mr. Donovan was kind enough to provide her with extra time to work on her tests, seeing how her reading is slow-going. It was also the very perceptive Mr. Donovan who recommended that she attend a special art program for young artists on Tuesdays and Thursdays under Miss Chew who, for some reason, calls Patricia as “Ther-esa.”

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It was Miss Chew who taught Polacco to not just look but to really “see.” Miss Chew prompted her students to acquire a different way of seeing, appreciating the “negative space” and how to infuse art pieces with emotions and soul.

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The plot thickens, however, when a substitute teacher named Mrs. Spaulding insisted on Polacco concentrating more on her academics (which she is failing quite miserably) rather than attend extra art lessons under Miss Chew.

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How this is resolved, I shall leave for you to discover. Suffice it to say, that this picturebook is a sobering reminder of the life-changing role that teachers often play in their students’ lives. We often take it for granted, but it is oh-so-real. No doubt, Miss Chew was instrumental in building up young Patricia’s confidence and artistic skills which eventually led her to becoming the writer-illustrator we love.

  1. I loved reading Polacco’s books about teachers who inspired her. I love the theme by the way! Can’t wait to read more of what you’ll end up sharing!

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  2. I don’t know about this book by the wonderful Patricia Polacco. It sounds right up my alley! Thank you for sharing!

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