The Art of Miss Chew

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.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

44 thoughts on “The Art of Miss Chew

  1. What a lovely story Pat, with such a special message. Trisha has more than one hurdle to overcome and how wonderful there is someone there who believes in her and encourages such talent. Great story! Loved this, thanks Pat.

    • Diane, I’m glad you enjoyed this special book from this seasoned author/illustrator. It really was an autobiography about the people who supported her early artistic talent and helped her with a learning disorder.

    • Me too, Michelle. I have had a love affair with her books since the early 90s when I took my daughter to meet her at a book signing for the “Keeping Quilt” — one of my favorite books. Patricia really was entertaining and ran around the stage showing the kids how she used the quilt as a tent among other things as a young child. She let the kids touch the quilt. We attended her book signings every time she came to town. We baked Thunder Cakes, tried to paint Russian Easter Eggs. Oh what fun her books are! So, when I saw her recent autobiographical release, I had to buy it. She is a prolific writer.

  2. What a wonderful story on so many levels. If just reading about the book touched me so, emotionally, what will actually reading the book do? Thank you so much for bringing it to our attention. I’ve just requested it from another library in the province — I can hardly wait to read it!

    • Well Catherine, I was on vacation in Florida and walked into a book store and there it was — couldn’t believe my eyes. Have admired her work since the early 90s and my daughter has many books signed from Patricia — we still have them. She was such a wonderful storyteller in real life.

    • Agree with you Leigh. It’s sad that many kids miss out on art, music and drama in school. It is so important for self-expression. She’s one of my favorite authors.

  3. I could not agree with Ms. Palacco more about the importance of art education, and yet it is all too true that it gets left behind.

    • Julie, thanks for your comments. Too many art and music programs are being dropped due to funding — always the first to go. I loved her comment about how art is the language of our heart and soul.

    • Niamh, thank you. Thought about this book as a good one for the Plum Tree because of its message. I’m sorry, have been absent the last few days. Will get a list to you as promised.

  4. I haven’t read this one, but really do love Patricia Polacco. Her books are used at my kids’ school often, so I’ve had the opportunity to read many of them with my children. I love that this is autobiographical, will have to check it out!

    • Amy, after reading Patricia’s books for 20 years or more, I felt that this one brought me full circle in better understanding her struggles and her talent. I loved the book.

  5. As a teacher I am always in awe and slight fear at the impact we can have on children’s lives. I love to read testimonies like this. I can’t wait to read this autobiographical story of Patricia Polacco!

  6. This looks lovely, Pat! I’m all in favor of a book that stresses the importance of the arts, especially for kids who struggle with other things. I didn’t know this was autobiographical either – how neat! Thanks so much for adding this one to our list!

    • Susanna, I really loved learning more about Patricia as a child and her early learning issues. Art was her salvation. Miss Chew explains in the book why she has trouble reading and helps her. She sees the world differently. Probably a lot of artists who have had learning issues and dyslexia.

  7. In school, we read some of Ms. Polacco’s books. We almost picked this book up at our local bookstore but I ended up getting a poetry book. I think I’ll have to go back for this one 🙂

    • Erik, If you are a Patricia Polacco fan like me, it’s a book to own. I have read her since the early 90s, and seen her talk and do programs for kids. So, this book was kind of a “full circle” book for me. I got to really know her.

  8. One great exercise for teaching kids (or adults!) ‘to see’ is to have them mirror a profile (a face, side of a vase, tree or just a random abstract shape). Much harder than you think, though a dentist may have the learned aptitude!

  9. Art education is soooo important. No argument from me on that! I am going to check it out from the library too. I never heard of this book before. You too have sent me searching for several picture books. I trust your judgement! 🙂

  10. Pat, I love stories that are based on true life…I love stories that give kids hope…I love stories that show how determination and ingenuity can help make dreams come true…so I love this book! Wonderful choice for PPBF!

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