CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 2 . . . . September 20, 2002
This charming and exquisite picture book pays tribute to the life and work of a simple woman whose artistic gifts continue to give pleasure to countless numbers of people. The illustrations and design of the book are quite lovely, with numerous reproductions of Maud's own colourfully distinct works interspersed with beautiful black and white illustrations of Maud and her world. Mark Lang's gentle renderings perfectly suit both the spirit of this book and that of the artist herself, and yet they contrast beautifully with the bright and lively paintings for which Maud has become so renowned. This is truly a special book that will be savoured by those who love her work as well as by those who are meeting Maud for the first time.
Jo Ellen Bogart has done a fine job of conveying to readers, young and old, the oftentimes painful life of this celebrated folk artist. She gives a good general overview of Maud Lewis's life, one which will hopefully encourage many people to learn more about her, and which will serve as a great springboard for discussion in a classroom setting. Bogart enables us to see many of the things that really mattered to Maud along with the things that strongly influenced her as an artist. However, the text would perhaps read more cohesively as a story if Bogart had started at the beginning and written about Maud's life chronologically rather than hopping back and forth in an anecdotal fashion as she has done here. I found it difficult to feel immersed in the story when the information and anecdotes presented seemed to be arranged randomly. Moreover, in the early pages of the book, Maud's husband, Everett, seems to be a very kind and supportive partner who takes over the household chores and helps scrounge paint for Maud to use, but then, in later passages, he is presented as being very stingy and unwilling to provide even the most basic of comforts to make their daily lives more bearable. If the story unfolded sequentially perhaps the reader would get a better sense of Everett as a complete person, imperfect but still encouraging. Instead, it feels like conflicting images of the same person that are difficult to reconcile with one another.
Nevertheless, filled as it is with the vibrancy that characterizes the art of Maud Lewis, this book makes a beautiful addition to any art lovers bookcase. It is also a delightful souvenir of Nova Scotia, a celebration of our rich artistry and artistic heritage. School libraries should have it on their shelves, and I can see many ways in which teachers could put it to good use in the classroom. Overall, a lovely book.
Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.
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