The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco
Polacco continues to explore her childhood in picture book form in this tribute to a teacher. In school, young Patricia struggled with her grades, specifically when taking tests. Luckily, she had a teacher, Mr. Donovan, who was willing to give her extra time to finish. That little change allowed Patricia to get better grades. Mr. Donovan was also the first teacher to recognize her artistic talent. He connected her with an art program run by Miss Chew. Miss Chew talked about learning to see, working with line and pressure, and taking their sketchbooks with them everywhere. Patricia soaked all of this up like a sponge. But then Mr. Donovan’s father died, and the substitute teacher would not give her more time to finish her tests. She even threatened to pull Patricia out of her special art class. Happily, Miss Chew was there to come to the rescue!
Polacco has continued to write about her challenges with school and about how a single amazing teacher changed her life again and again. Her books are a testament to the power of teachers to make a difference in a child’s world, but in turn they are also a look at the emergence of a gifted artist who works hard and makes her own special place too. In my eyes, it is the combination of Polacco and her teachers that is magical.
The art is done in Polacco’s signature style that is artistic, evocative and realistic too. As she speaks about art, she demonstrates it in her art in the book. Readers will notice how she captures shadow and light and plays with perspective too. It is a very engaging way to create a quick art lesson in the middle of a story.
Art teachers will love this as a gift, but they will also enjoy sharing it in their classrooms. Bravo for Miss Chew and all of the other great teachers out there who do this work every day. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.