cover image EMILY'S ART


Peter Catalanotto, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83831-6

Catalanotto (The Painter; Dylan's Day Out) subtly conveys the value of creating art for art's sake in this tender picture book. When Emily's first grade teacher announces an art contest for which a judge will choose the best entry, Emily is skeptical: "Does the judge know which is better?" she asks. Nevertheless, each day Emily paints a new piece of art and, near the end of the week, she chooses to display "her new favorite," a watercolor of her dog, Thor, with his rather large ears at attention. When the judge first chooses Emily's piece—because she mistakes Thor for a rabbit—then rejects Emily's painting when she learns he's a dog (because of the judge's fear of dogs), Emily buries her painting (" 'I'll never paint again,' she whispers"). But a reassuring exchange with her best friend rekindles Emily's passion to paint. Catalanotto creates visually arresting scenes; in several spreads, he places Emily's and other students' art in the forefront, while his own fluid, more defined watercolor-and-acrylic compositions carry the narrative forward in smaller panels elsewhere on the page. He carefully crafts each scene to depict a new step in Emily's emotional journey (she appears to be nearly transparent when she's feeling blue, for example), which gives the text a satisfying resonance. Aspiring Picassos everywhere will find much to contemplate and cheer about here. Ages 5-8. (June)