CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
and we thundered
Where do I sign up? I envy the children who took Drawing & Painting with Miss. M. Emily Carr. Her fame aside, what an atmosphere to learn in! Author Susan Vande Griek and illustrator Pascal Milelli transport us with vivid words and pictures into Emily Carr's "Art Room" where a riot of colour and noise prevailed and real animals were a routine part of the classroom scene. That the children worshiped their Miss Carr comes through clearly throughout - she even made time for talking and tea after class. At the end of the day, the children reluctantly return to the implied dreariness of the rest of their lives, and the last few lines, "oh, we sighed/and waved bye,/and then went out to see/with eyes that were wide," are a testament to the lasting impact of a mentor who was well-loved.
Vande Griek's careful choice of words - old-fashioned names like Sally, John, Peter and Peggy, the use of the honorific "Miss" Carr, children who "gabbed" as they did, then (but not now) - gives the book an appropriately quaint, old-world feel, while her liberal use of verbs, both as verbs and in adjectival compounds, enlivens the text. The course of a typical lesson, which took place indoors or out as the mood struck, is detailed in a minimum of words that speak images: "tide-washed inlets," "hemmed in alleys" and "thunderbird houses."
Pascal Milelli's paintings rightfully take centre stage. Colour dominates on each page, with vibrant, gleeful shades inside the art room, glowing, quietly intense colours outdoors and a minimum of detail to ably capture the period. In the midst of all this vividness, he captures the intentness of the children as they work especially well, each page reminding us of the effectiveness of Emily Carr's chosen medium.
Cora Lee is a Vancouver, BC, writer and editor.
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