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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Emily Carr Met Woo, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Dean Griffiths. Pajama Press, 2014. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"The small creature perched
on Emily's shoulder as she
walked home. A sea breeze
ruffled the monkey's fur. The
air smelled of kelp and salt
and faraway places.

"Woo-woo-woo!" she
"I will call you Woo," said

Emily Carr is not an easy artist to introduce to a young audience, unless you appeal to their love for animals and share her story with a focus on those animal companions she so loved. Emily was eccentric, of that there is no doubt.

"She lived with all sorts of animals - dogs, cats, a parrot
named Jane, and a rat named Susie. She walked around
town pushing a baby stroller filled with puppies."

It wasn't only her penchant for the menagerie of pets who shared her home; many people found it difficult to understand the art she created. A visit to a local pet shop brought her face to face with a lonely monkey. Emily could not leave him there. So, she traded one of her puppies. She and Woo became great friends. Woo loved to make trouble: for the other animals, and for Emily's sisters who often visited. But, Emily loved her.

As Emily prepared for another trip to the forest to work on her art, Woo collected treasures. One was a tube of paint that Woo ate:

"Woo lay quietly on the floor. Her eyes were closed and she whimpered.
Yellow paint covered her mouth and paws.
"Oh, Woo, what have you done?" sobbed Emily.

A long night followed with Emily holding Woo and praying for her recovery. As luck would have it, Woo made it through that night. Together, they left on their trip to the forest where more of Emily's stunning and iconic art was created. 

An author's note follows to allow readers a chance to know more about Ms.Carr. It includes an archival photo, as does the front cover of the book. Three of her paintings are represented on the back cover. Dean Griffiths uses mixed media to give Emily's love of animals prominence. Monica Kulling tells her story in a way that ensures engagement for her young audience.   

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