The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco. Philomel, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25703-2
As she did in Thank You, Mr. Falker and The Junkyard Wonders, Polacco pays homage to an influential teacher from her childhood—in this case, two of them. Trisha’s homeroom teacher, Mr. Donovan, who has “a laugh that sounded like bells ringing,” realizes that Trisha needs extra time to finish (and thereby pass) tests. He also recognizes her artistic talent and arranges for Trisha to join Miss Chew’s high school art class. The girl immediately feels at home under the tutelage of Miss Chew, who is of Chinese descent and whose grace and warmth emanate from Polacco’s vibrant portraits (Miss Chew is often seen in brightly patterned dresses and paint-spattered smocks, arms spread wide). Emotionally and artistically, Trisha connects with the woman, who emphasizes the need “to see” rather than merely look at one’s subject; Miss Chew also pinpoints the cause of Trisha’s reading troubles, though a one-note villain of a substitute teacher threatens Trisha’s progress. The joy of artistic creation and the value of teachers who are willing to look outside the box come through clearly in the first-person narrative and Polacco’s fluid illustrations. Ages 5–8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 04/12/2012
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