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Friday, August 29, 2014

Emily's Blue Period, written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown. Raoring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.99 ages 6 and up

""Do you like this?" asks Dad. It's a soft cube you can put your feet on. NO. No. "What about this?" It's a big square rug. No. Everything is pretty, but nothing looks like home. Did you know that Pablo Picasso was so poor when he moved to Paris that he couldn't buy furniture? Really? He painted furniture on his walls..."

If you are an artist, you probably know the powerful effect that working at your craft has on your mood and your daily life. Emily is filled with the sadness that envelops a child when parents make the decision to separate.

At the same time, her teacher is introducing Pablo Picasso to her students. In honor of the artist, Emily begins thinking of a name change to:

"Emily Emilia Rosita Jenny Juanita de los Alto Igor de la Eyeball Montoya Fluffy Pinchner."

When her parents separate, Emily compares their mixed-up circumstance to Picasso's art. As she and her brother help their father search for furniture for his new space, she is aware of the cubist look of all they see. None of it looks like home to Emily and her brother. Jack strongly shows his displeasure and annoyance at the changes that are coming. Emily avoids assigned art projects, telling her mother that she is emulating Picasso:

"When Pablo Picasso was very sad he only painted in shades of blue.
And now I am in my blue period."

Using pencil and watercolor, with some digital collage, Lisa Brown chooses soft colors and simple lines to help express the feelings that are so prevalent for Emily. The chapters move seamlessly from one to the next in double page spreads that are perfectly designed.  The story is told with sympathy for Emily's struggles without being overbearing or maudlin. Emily is an artist and it is art that helps her through difficult times; finally, she is able to define the family's new dynamic in her own style when a collage of her house is her new art assignment.

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