LUKE’S WAY OF LOOKING by Nadia Wheatley


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 10
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Luke draws the nose and ears in the wrong place in a portrait. And worst of all he draws a completely imaginary view of the scene through the classroom window. Mr. Barraclough totally rejects Luke’s artistic attempts. He screams at Luke, tears his work, and even destroys his brushes. Friday art class becomes a torment. One Friday Luke gets on a bus, and discovers a museum of modern art. “For the first time in his life, Luke felt at home.” (This brings up some unanswered questions about his home life. Perhaps his teacher is not the only one who rejects his vision.) He sees abstract and surreal paintings and sculptures that look just perfect to him. He is carried back to school in such a state of euphoria that even the bus ride presents him with exciting new visions. He arrives just in time to join the art class and paints a watermelon of such surreal beauty that even Mr. Barraclough is speechless. In a visual tour de force Ottley uses a dazzling variety of styles, media, and techniques that virtually encapsulate a history of modern art and includes visual references to Picasso, Dali, Pollock, and more. On the surface Wheatley’s text and Ottley’s illustrations present a plea for understanding that the artist’s vision should be accepted, appreciated, and allowed to express itself freely. However, there appears to be something disturbing here too. Mr. Barraclough is presented as a raging, monstrous figure both in the text and the illustrations. He doesn’t just disapprove of Luke’s art; he becomes a depiction of evil. Mr. Barraclough and everything in the ordinary world are drawn in pen and ink with an emphasis on shadows. Only Luke’s paintings and the works in the museum are given color. As Luke is awakened to the “rightness” of his vision, he and the world around him take on color and brightness. Mr. B. doesn’t achieve color until he ceases to denigrate Luke’s work. So what is the message? Who decides what art is good art? In the end there is no real respect for different visions; they are merely placed in warring camps, sure to stir up controversy. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-929132-18-2
Page count: 36pp
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2001


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