EMILY’S ART by Peter Catalanotto


Age Range: 5 - 8
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Catalanotto (Dad and Me, 1999, etc.) sets his stage almost like a little movie: there’s a prologue, a progression, a denouement, and a coda, all in the standard picture book’s 32 pages. The watercolor, gouache, and acrylic paintings shimmer in bold colors and strong shapes, echoing the text themes. It’s a heavily didactic story with a straw villain, but it gets at an honest truth. Ms. Fair asks her class if they know what a contest is and what a judge is. The class bickers over what judges do (“puts bad people in jail,” says one), and Ms. Fair explains that in the art contest, the judge will decide who the winner is. Emily loves to paint, and she does so inventively: she paints four mommies in her breakfast scene, because her mom is “very busy in the morning” and angel wings on her picture of Ms. Fair “because she’s so nice.” She enters her painting of her dog Thor in the contest, painted with big ears because “Thor hears everything” and helps her best friend Kelly with the colors on her butterfly. When the judge arrives, she mistakes Thor for a rabbit; when told it’s a dog, she chooses Kelly’s butterfly instead because she hates dogs. Emily vows never to paint again, and her misery-filled, random thoughts will resonate with any child whose work has been misunderstood. While the text is heavy-handed, Catalanotto’s art brilliantly portrays not only the lively classroom, but also Emily’s own art and the art of her classmates, what she’s thinking, and how she resolves the situation for herself. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-83831-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001


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