The city of Paris was lit up
like fireworks. "No wonder
they call it the City of Lights!" exclaimed Marvin, Grant's friend and fellow painter. There was a tower that looked like an iron bridge to the sky."
Grant is like so many of us. Tired of the drudgery of life at home, a farm in the America Midwest in the 1920s, he leaves with a dream in his heart and a new life in mind. He is off to Paris where he will pursue his passion for art. After years spent drawing his farm life, he wants more. He shares those dreams in idyllic days with his cow, Tillie.
Meanwhile, Tillie who has been his constant companion, is quite satisfied with the way she lives. She is content with her lot in life and has never dreamed of anything different.
"Relaxing under an apple tree, Tillie felt the sun warm her
sleek brown back. She picked up an apple and dropped it
into Grant's open palm. What a cow!"
His departure leaves Tillie listless and unproductive. Thankfully for her, Grant's sojourn in Paris is not nearly as successful as he had hoped. His return to Iowa is met with great glee and a return to good health and improved milk production. Their walks inspire Grant's most famous work - American Gothic. He finds life at home, with all that he loves, is exactly what he needs to be a successful artist.
I like this imaginative story based on Grant Wood's life. The scenes in Iowa are intertwined with his time in Paris, adding interest and context to the life he eventually chooses to live. An author's note lets readers know that Tillie comes from the writer's imagination, chosen because Grant Wood said his best ideas came when he was milking a cow.
I have great admiration for Sydney Smith's work. He uses watercolors, ink and a toothbrush to create both realistic settings, and solidly places the audience in the world of the 1920s in Europe and North America. The grainy feel, the muted prairie palette pays homage to the artist, and begs a return for a much closer look once the story has been shared. The art adds a level of emotional understanding that is poignant and memorable. I hope we see many more books graced by his beautiful artwork.