The Art of Miss Chew Hardcover – Apr 12 2012
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"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." — Publishers Weekly
"Full of color and movement. . . . [Polacco's] first-person narration tells her tragedy and triumph in a very down-to-earth way, using the tone of the 11-year-old she was." — Kirkus Reviews
"The moving memoir will resonate with any student who has struggled with reading and should also spark empathy among their classmates." — Booklist
"Heartwarming tribute. . . . Detailed representational paintings bring to life scenes that evoke both true sorrow and absolute joy." — School Library Journal
"In this heartfelt autobiographical picture book, Patricia Polacco pays tribute to her first art teacher, Miss Violet Chew." — Library Media Connection
About the Author
"I was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1944. Soon after my birth I lived in Williamston, Michigan and then moved onto my grandparents farm in Union City, Michigan.
"I lived on the farm with my mom and Grandparents until 1949. That is when my Babushka (my grandmother) died and we prepared to move away from Michigan. I must say that living on that little farm with them was the most magical time of my life...and that my Babushka and other grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in my life.
"My parents were divorced when I was 3, and both my father and mother moved back into the homes of their parents. I spent the school year with my mother, and the summers with my dad. In both households I was the apple of my grandparents' eyes! I would say that these relationships with my grandparents have most definitely influenced my life and my work. You probably have noticed that in almost every book that I write there is a very young person who is interacting with an elderly person. Personally, I feel that this is the most valuable experience of my life....having the wonder of knowing both children and elderly people.
"The respect that I learned as a very young person certainly carried over into my life in later years. I have always like hearing stories from these folks. My genuine curiosity for the wonder of living a very long life prepared me to accept the declining years of my own parents.
"To get back to the farm in Union City...this place was so magical to me that I have never forgotten it! This was the place where I heard such wonderful stories told...this was the place that a real meteor fell into our font yard...that very meteorite is now our family headstone in the graveyard here in Union City.
"Did I tell you that I now live in Union City? This is after living in Oakland, California for almost 37 years. But, you see, every year I'd come back to Michigan to see my Dad and family.
"In 1949 we left the farm to move, first to Coral Gables, Florida. I lived there with my Mom and my brother, Richard, for almost 3 years. Then we moved to Oakland, California. I remained there for most of my young life on into my adulthood. We lived on Ocean View Drive in the Rockridge District. What I loved the most about this neighborhood is that all of my neighbors came in as many colors, ideas and religions as there are people on the planet. How lucky I was to know so many people that were so different and yet so much alike.
"It is on Ocean View that I met my best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington. We are best friends to this day! He has a younger brother, Winston and three sisters; Jackie, Terry and Robin. When I was a student in elementary school I wasn't a very good student. I had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn't! I thought I was dumb. I didn't like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn't do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero's, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course, now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL! As a matter of fact, I have learned that being learning disabled only means that I cannot learn the way most of you do. As a matter of fact, most learning disabled children are actually GENIUSES! Once I learned how to read and caught up with the rest of my fellow students, I did very well.
"I went on to University, majored in Fine Art, then went on to do a graduate degree and even ended up with a Ph.D. in Art History. For a time I restored ancient pieces of art for museums. I eventually became the mother of two children, Steven and Traci, and devoted much of my days to their education and upbringing.
"I did not start writing children's books until I was 41 years old. Mind you the "art" has always been there for me most of my life. Apparently one of the symptoms of my disability in academics is the ability of draw very, very well. So drawing, painting and sculpture has always been a part of my life even before I started illustrating my books. The books were quite a surprise, really. Mind you, I came from a family of incredible storytellers. My mother's people were from the Ukraine and Russia...my father's people were from Ireland. My extended family,(Stewart's family) were from the bayous of Louisiana...also great story tellers. When you are raised on HEARING stories.....NOT SEEING THEM, you become very good at telling stories yourself. So at the age of 41 I started putting stories that I told down on paper and did drawings to help illustrate them...I guess the rest is history.
"I have enjoyed a wonderful career of writing books for children . Who could have guessed that little girl that was having such a tough time in school would end up an illustrator and author. Children and adults alike ask me where I get my ideas...I get them from the same place that you do....MY IMAGINATION... I would guess the reason my imagination is so fertile is because I came from storytelling and, WE DID NOT OWN A T.V.!!!!!!!!! You see, when one is a writer, actor, dancer, musician; a creator of any kind, he or she does these things because they listen to that "voice" inside of them. All of us have that "voice". It is where all inspired thoughts come from....but when you have electronic screens in front, of you, speaking that voice for you... it DROWNS OUT THE VOICE! When I talk to children and aspiring writers, I always ask them to listen to the voice, turn off the T.V. and
"Now that I have moved back to Union City I am intending to open my house and community and invite people to come there to take part in writing seminars, story telling festivals, literature conferences and various events that celebrate children's literature."
Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"
Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.
The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.
copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Patricia thrived in that class and learned how to see and appreciate art in a whole different way. Miss Chew's tutelage would have continued seamlessly were it not for the untimely and unwelcomed intervention of a substitute teacher who saw the time that Trisha devoted to the art program as the root cause of her poor test taking skills. Would Trisha be forced to leave the program that had introduced her to the new language of art?
This autobiographical account from acclaimed author and illustrator Patricia Polacco makes a strong case not only for the difference that special teachers can make in the lives of their students, but also for the importance of funding school programs in the arts. The story and illustrations are both powerful and captivating; this book is a true delight.
Although Patricia is incredibly talented in art, she struggles with taking tests because of a learning disability. Her regular teacher realizes this issue and gives her extra time to take tests, allowing her to succeed. Patricia is loving life; she's learning about art and doing well in her regular class. However, her teacher's dad dies and Patricia has to have a substitute teacher for a while. The substitute thinks Patricia should spend her time studying rather than doing art and refuses to give her extra time on tests. Patricia starts failing her tests again and she is very upset she's going to be taken out of Miss Chew's art class. Miss Chew learns what is going on and starts advocating for her. She arranges for Patricia to see a reading specialist and a meeting at school occurs and all is happily resolved in the end. (I'm trying to not include too many spoilers.)
My kids and I loved this book. One thing I love is the words `learning disability' are never used. Patricia has had problems reading in the past and she still reads too slowly to finish a test, but it's never called a disability. Her art teacher and a reading specialist explain the way she reads in art terms rather than calling it a disability; it's just another way Patricia sees the world.
Another great aspect of the book is the art. It has beautiful pictures. A few art concepts are described in the story, such as negative space and seeing the world through artists' eyes. It reminded me to `see' some of the details of the world and help my kids do the same.
Plus, a side story in the book is Patricia's relationship with her regular teacher, Mr. Donovan. Patricia paints a beautiful picture of Mr. Donovan's father and I can hardly read the last page of the book without crying.
I asked my 4 year old what she likes about the book and she said `everything.' She went through the book and showed me what she liked about every picture. She clearly loved the story line, especially the relationships between Patricia and her teachers (with the exception of the substitute teacher of course!)
We'd recommend this book! My 11-year-old liked it. Even my 2-year-old sat through an entire reading of it (though he mostly liked to point to Miss Chew and help turn the pages.)
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