CAN, JP, US, INT)
Written and Illustrated by: Nicolas Debon
Published by: Groundwood Books
Published on: July 1, 2007
Happy Canada Day!
I chose this book today because Emily Carr is probably Canada's most famous artist. She captures a way of life in Pacific Canada that was soon changed irrevocably, and her respect for nature and modern methods are still influencing artists today.
This book is laid out as a graphic novel. There are still very few nonfiction historical graphic novel format books in English, but this is the main way kids in Japan read nonfiction in Japan. It's a really good format for encouraging reluctant readers. I think the typical kid to check out a biography of Emily Carr in junior high would probably be a girl interested in Canadian history or powerful women, or artsy kids. But the graphic novel style would appeal to many more.
Another good thing about this format is that there is no real competition between styles here. Picture book biographies about artists can be a minefield; how do you choose how to honour the artist without copying them? Here the panels are a totally different style, while still recognizing what Millie Carr is inspired by to paint.
The book is divided into four parts, so each of Carr's pictures symbolizes a time period and artistic style in her life. The themes of depression, standing out from society, and the meaning of art make this more suitable to junior high students and older than for younger kids. Not only does it introduce Carr and the Group of Seven, it also gives a glimpse into Victorian times and turn-of-the-century Canadian society.
I have mentioned here before that I love it when a publisher prints something on the inside covers of a book. The endpapers of this book are beautiful, a collection of Carr's sketches of Coastal First Nations motifs including the totems for which she is famous on a beautiful red paper. The quality is first-rate, just like the rest of the book.