________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 30 . . . . April 9, 2010


A is for Artist.

Medea Gallery Artists' Co-op.
Winnipeg, MB. Medea Gallery, 2009.
28 pp., stapled, $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-896150-58-1.

Subject Headings:
Art, Canadian-Manitoba-Juvenile literature.
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.

Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.

Review by Ann Stinner.

**1/2 /4

A is for Artist is a large-format, paperback book written and illustrated by 24 members of the Medea Gallery Artists' Co-operative in Winnipeg, MB. Twenty-two of these artists were each responsible for creating the text and accompanying image for one letter of the alphabet, and two artists were assigned two letters each. This ambitious project showcases a wide variety of media by the participating artists: acrylics, watercolour, drawing and printmaking, collage and mixed media, stained glass, ceramics and photography. As one leafs through the book, the reader/viewer is struck by the diversity of images which fill up - right to the edges - three-quarters of each of the facing pages. Large black lettering suitable for young children occupies the white strip below each image.

     Many of the individual artworks are captivating, their texts simply-expressed and evocative - and are appropriate for both younger and older readers. This is the text for one particularly effective page:

Qq is for quiet. A quiet walk home with friends is a perfect way to end the day.

internal art

     Above the text is an atmospheric watercolour painting showing the backs of a group of children and adults heading through the snow toward a cluster of snow-covered houses and trees. Both the text and the artwork are accessible and universal enough that Canadian children of all ages can recreate in their imaginations doing just this: walking home on a winter day. On other pages, however, one is confused about who the intended reader/viewer of the book is supposed to be. Even though the back cover advertises that A is for Artist "introduces children to the world of original art," sometimes the language used in the text is too advanced or convoluted for children (maybe even for some adults); occasionally the text seems to have little to do with the accompanying image; and, in a couple of places, the very specific locations mentioned in the text may discourage children from making their own personal connections to the ideas and emotions expressed on the pages. The fact that some texts are in rhyme (sometimes leading to awkward "forced" rhymes) and others are not, also makes for a disjointedness in the text overall. Occasionally, too, the choice of subject matter seems rather intangible or remote for young readers/viewers. While it was clearly important to give the Medea artists freedom to develop each letter in their own creative ways, it might have been useful for the artists' group to have had some discussions at the outset about what makes a good children's picture book by looking at some exemplary illustrated books, and to have reached some agreement regarding intended audience, general guidelines for the text, and the types of subject matter which would be embraced by young Canadian readers. An overall editor might also have been able to help with these matters.

     Nevertheless, A is for Artist definitely offers its viewers and readers a diverse and unique sampling of Manitoba art. A valuable addendum to this book - on the last page - is the Medea Gallery's website address which can lead readers - even very young ones - to click on the individual websites of many of the participants in this book to see their very accomplished artworks. Hopefully, the experience of reading the book and perusing the website will eventually lead some of these readers into the gallery itself and perhaps inspire children to create their very own alphabet books.


Ann Stinner is a book artist and former art education instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.