The Art of Miss Chew

( 3 )


After spending the summer with her artist grandmother, Trisha knows she wants to be an artist, too. She's thrilled when her sketches get her into Miss Chew's special art class at the high school. A substitute teacher tells her she's wasting time on art when she should be studying - but fortunately, this is one battle that Miss Chew and Trisha are up for!

This true story shows just how important a teacher can be in a child's life - and ...

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After spending the summer with her artist grandmother, Trisha knows she wants to be an artist, too. She's thrilled when her sketches get her into Miss Chew's special art class at the high school. A substitute teacher tells her she's wasting time on art when she should be studying - but fortunately, this is one battle that Miss Chew and Trisha are up for!

This true story shows just how important a teacher can be in a child's life - and celebrates the power of art itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As she did in Thank You, Mr. Falker and The Junkyard Wonders, Polacco pays homage to an influential teacher from her childhood—in this case, two of them. Trisha’s homeroom teacher, Mr. Donovan, who has “a laugh that sounded like bells ringing,” realizes that Trisha needs extra time to finish (and thereby pass) tests. He also recognizes her artistic talent and arranges for Trisha to join Miss Chew’s high school art class. The girl immediately feels at home under the tutelage of Miss Chew, who is of Chinese descent and whose grace and warmth emanate from Polacco’s vibrant portraits (Miss Chew is often seen in brightly patterned dresses and paint-spattered smocks, arms spread wide). Emotionally and artistically, Trisha connects with the woman, who emphasizes the need “to see” rather than merely look at one’s subject; Miss Chew also pinpoints the cause of Trisha’s reading troubles, though a one-note villain of a substitute teacher threatens Trisha’s progress. The joy of artistic creation and the value of teachers who are willing to look outside the box come through clearly in the first-person narrative and Polacco’s fluid illustrations. Ages 5–8. (Apr.)
"The moving memoir will resonate with any student who has struggled with reading and should also spark empathy among their classmates."
Library Media Connection
"In this heartfelt autobiographical picture book, Patricia Polacco pays tribute to her first art teacher, Miss Violet Chew."
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
From Polacco's striking cover, through endpapers and illustrations, this book is dedicated to ART and Miss Violet Chew, an inspiring teacher who taught the young author how to see and how to draw. As a child, Polacco, then living in Oakland, California, had trouble reading and completing tests because she saw words in patterns and shapes. First to realize the problem was her classroom teacher, Mr. Donovan, a young Irishman with unruly red hair, who saw her drawings and introduced her to Miss Chew and her art classes. The beautiful and elegant artist (even her paint-spattered smock is chic), took Patricia under her wing and not only inspired her to become an artist, but also came to her rescue with a reading specialist when Patricia's school threatened to stop her art studies. Vibrant illustrations, done in pencil and marker, bring a freshness and transparency to her own story, capturing a young girl's despair and elation, the humor and vitality of Mr. Donovan, Miss Chew's beauty and dedication, and the negative rigidity of the substitute teacher who sees no value in art. Polacco's strengths are her brilliant sense of color, her bold use of pattern and detail, and her ability to convey emotion through faces and body language. Some memorable spreads show Patricia's shingled Craftsman-style house in Oakland, Miss Chew's expressive hands gesturing as she teaches, and Patricia riding in the artist's gorgeous royal blue convertible. A satisfying finish takes viewers to the students' final show to delight in the exuberant paintings (including Patricia's), the food, the decor, and Miss Chew in her formal orange and lime-green Chinese gown. In a letter to readers, Polacco offers her thanks for the life and influence of this extraordinary teacher. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Readers familiar with Polacco's often-autobiographical work will recognize this picture book as another heartwarming tribute to an adult who interceded when young Trisha was most vulnerable. This time, the author looks back with gratitude to an art teacher. Drawing was the only positive aspect of Trisha's school day, but she was almost robbed of that pleasure by a substitute teacher who tried to remove her from Miss Chew's class. Fortunately Mrs. Spaulding did not prevail, and Miss Chew not only inspired the child's artistic talents but also played a key role in unraveling the mystery of her reading disability and getting her the proper support. Polacco's recall of events in her past is remarkable, and the detailed representational paintings bring to life scenes that evoke both true sorrow and absolute joy. Libraries will definitely want to add this gem to their collections.—Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Art is a language, and the right teacher can change a life is the twin message of this personal story from the exuberant author/illustrator. Polacco provides an unabashedly autobiographical account of a year in grammar school with the Irish Mr. Donovan, who understands that she needs additional time to work at written tests. He also introduces her to Miss Chew, an art teacher, and both immediately recognize Trisha's emerging talent—although the Chinese Miss Chew hears her name as "Ther-esa" and calls her that ever after. It is Miss Chew who discerns Trisha's talent at perceiving negative space and connects it to her difficulties in school: She sees words as patterns, not letters. When Mr. Donovan is called to Ireland upon the death of his father, the substitute will not allow Trisha extra time on exams and tries to keep her from art class. Right prevails—and Trisha gets to have a painting in the high-school art fair, even though she is so young. Polacco's pencil-and-marker art is full of color and movement, with its exaggerated figures and vibrant line. Her characters are always gesturing, caught in mid-sentence. Her first-person narration tells her tragedy and triumph in a very down-to-earth way, using the tone of the 11-year-old she was. The paired lessons—of art as a crucial element in education and of the importance of recognizing different learning styles—come through clearly, leavened by Polacco's use of color and gesture. (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399257032
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 86,889
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco ( is the prolific author and illustrator of over fifty picture books, including New York Times bestseller The Junkyard Wonders. An energetic and enthusiastic public speaker, she visits over 100 classrooms every year. She lives in Union City, Michigan.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Polacco Perfection!

    Fans of Patricia Polacco will cheer for this latest installment of her autobiographical stories. Heartwarming and triumphant --- a tribute to caring teachers everywhere who make a difference in the lives they touch.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    I always adore Patricia Polacco's books, so when I saw this one

    I always adore Patricia Polacco's books, so when I saw this one I knew I had to have it! Like all her books, this one is beautifully told with gorgeous illustrations and a sweet story line. Filled with inspirational themes and great lessons for children, it's the perfect book to read at storytime/bedtime. In our house, we make sure to read this once a week at least!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

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