The Art of Miss Chew
Patricia Polacco, Author and Illustrator
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2012, Fiction
Suitable for: Ages 5 and up
Theme: Artistic Expression, Autobiographical, Learning Disabilities, Self-esteem
Opening/Synopsis: ”I discovered how much I loved art the summer I spent with my grandmother and father in Michigan. Grandma was an artist; she drew and painted so beautifully! Grandma even told me that I was a natural artist, so I couldn’t wait to take Art at school next fall when I got home to California. I only had one problem left –tests. I just couldn’t seem to pass them.” Trisha loves school, but she has a lot of trouble reading. Her new teacher, Mr. Donovan, recognizes that she is smart, but needs more time taking test. He gives her that time and she begins to pass them. He also discovers her artistic talent when he sees one of her drawings. Since there isn’t an art program in her school, Mr. Donovan arranges for Trisha to study art with Miss Chew, head of the high school art department, twice a week. Miss Chew inspires Trisha “to see” an object before she draws. Trisha carries her sketch book with her everywhere. One day Mr. Donovan’s father dies and he has to leave for Ireland. The stern substitute teacher sees no value in art and attempts to derail Trisha’s art classes. But, Trisha and Miss Chew have a plan to outsmart the new teacher.
What I like about this book: This is a heartwarming autobiography of author/illustrator Patricia Polacco and the people who nurtured her artistic abilities, including two real teachers she names in the book. This book is a lovely tribute to the educators who spotted her talent and encouraged her in that direction. Patricia Polacco is an outstanding storyteller. Her story is an important read for young aspiring artists, and for kids who have trouble reading. Her colorful and bold illustrations evoke a lot of emotion and fun. She has created over 50 picture books. In a note to her readers, Polacco says “The tragedy is that today, too often monies are no longer available in many public schools to support art, music, drama, or descriptive arts programs. How could this be? Art teaches us to speak a language that originates in the heart, the soul and earliest memories. How could any course be more important?” Click here to visit Patricia Polacco’s website.
Activities: Encourage your children to do art projects at a young age. Introduce them to a variety of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, paints, drawing pads and molding clay. Many recreation centers, YMCA’s and art galleries have art and craft programs throughout the summer and year. Visit art galleries, topiary gardens and concerts. Create a space in your home to showcase your child’s artwork and let your child know how much joy his/her drawing brings you.
Additional Resources: Colleague Beth Stilborn featured the “Arts and Books on Vacation” series on her blog last summer. She focused on a variety of art programs for youth in New York City, Los Angeles, Canada and London.
To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays badge in the right sidebar. Perfect Picture Books will be going on vacation after today’s posts, and all the contributors will resume again September 7. I will continue to publish book reviews and do some interviews throughout the summer, perhaps with some breaks.