With sturdy acrylic illustrations and a strong early American voice, newcomer Browning tells the story of a girl with a gift for portraiture and a host of relatives who aren't comfortable encouraging her. “Best not,” says her father to a request for Abiah to paint a cousin's picture. “Serious painting is not girl's work.” “Best not,” says Uncle Albion to Abiah's request to sign her work. He lets Abiah spend the summer with him in his wagon, however, selling her Bible pictures. “Tis good work, but will be appreciated more if you don't sign it, child.... A female painter's work will never be as highly valued.” Yet Abiah presses ahead with plans to set up a portrait shop. Abiah's voice is honest and distinctive: “I asked if I should sign my name to Flight, but Mama cautioned me against being prideful. So instead, I began making my own mark upon my pictures: a tiny rose.” Delicious 19th-century period touches appear throughout: a dogcart piled with painting supplies; a solemn baby in a nightdress sitting for its portrait. A winning combination of historical fiction and creative resolve. Ages 5-7. (May)
Starred Review, Booklist: "Handsome and endearing, this picture book is a promising debut for Browning."
"I love this little book, which manages in a few well-chosen scenes and wonderful art to tell the imagined story of one of the many women artists—almost all anonymous—who painted in the early years of the American townships. It is a story of talent, perseverance, and challenge."
— Jane Yolen, award-winning author of Owl Moon, My Uncle Emily, and three hundred other books for children "I loved this book! The words and the old-fashioned art are equally charming and acquaint us with a little-known aspect of Americana. I say, ‘Hurray for Abiah Rose!'" — Eve Bunting, award-winning author of more than one hundred books for children "Lyrically and authentically written and illustrated by Diane Browning, this book has influenced me to stand taller as a woman artist. Read this book—it will give you the courage to claim your space in the world. Bravo!" — April Halprin Wayland, award-winning author of New Year at the Pier "As a girl who had to write, I was drawn to this story of a girl who had to paint. Her story charmed me, and I believe it will charm you, too." — Karen Cushman, Newbery Medal–winning author of The Midwife’s Apprentice "Diane Browning perfectly captures the voice, colors, and quiet passion of a nineteenth-century girl who is born reaching for a paintbrush instead of a rattle. A rose by any other name is—Abiah!" — Alexis O’Neill, author of The Recess Queen and Loud Emily
Back in pioneer days, women were not supposed to be artists. But as young Abiah Rose narrates in folksy prose, she has been drawing and painting all her life. She decorates the wagon and the barn, and does portraits of family and neighbors. Inspired by Bible stories, she also paints a picture for the church. Since signing her name might be considered prideful, she puts her marka tiny roseon her paintings. Her Uncle Albion, a peddler, is impressed by her work,and invites Abiah Rose to travel with him, painting and "signing" as they go. When she returns home, she persuades her father to let her join her Uncle Ezra in his shop, painting in a back room. She looks forward to having her own shop and finally signing her own name. Brown uses acrylics and colored pencils to give a fair impression of the pictures of the period as well as to illustrate the events of the story. There's a deftness and charm to the variety of settings and subjects ranging from vignettes and full pages to elaborate frames. The story helps fill in gaps in America's national art history. A note adds factual historic background to this representative tale. There is also a challenge to the reader to find the roses hidden in Abiah Rose's illustrated paintings. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Gr 1–4—Browning imagines the life of an early American artist, one of the many often anonymous women who followed what was then an unconventional path, traveling from town to town as itinerant portrait painters. The first-person narrative uses old-fashioned, homespun language to describe Abiah Rose's inspirations and environment. The understated story is balanced by truly lovely art. The color range and symmetries of the acrylic and colored-pencil compositions produce a calm and friendly effect, reinforced by the characters' open faces and amiable expressions. Strong, clear, natural colors; large shapes; and an abundance of playful animals keep the procession of images from becoming static, and fans of such books as Donald Hall's Ox-Cart Man (Viking, 1979) will enjoy Browning's faithful depiction of 18th-century artifacts and architecture. It's beautiful and inspiring, but sadly lacks some examples of paintings by women from the period.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
In a book that instantly evokes and sustains old-fashioned charm, readers meet young Abiah Rose, who lives in the Genesee River Valley sometime in the 18th century. She is a talented artist who, while allowed to pursue her passion to some extent, is prevented from taking full credit for her work. She is told by her family members that she shouldn't sign her name to her pieces because people would not respect her work if they knew it was done by a female artist. Abiah acquiesces, but she defiantly hides a small rose in each of her pieces to mark it as her creation. She looks forward to the day when she is old enough to have her own shop and make her own choices, for she sees "no fault in the signing of [her] own girl's name up on the work of [her] own girl's hands." The acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations look as if Abiah herself might have painted them, and each cleverly conceals one of her roses. Ideal for use with units on evolving gender roles and/or folk art in pioneer America. (author's note, further reading) (Picture book. 6-10)