Art Book Review: Willow And Beautiful Oops

Typically, I would review books that either have art project suggestions in them or teach art history to children. These two books however, are picture books. Sometimes it is just fun to throw in books that are visually interesting and have good insight into the way art can be thought about by children.

Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan and illustrated by Cyd Moore (of "I Love You Stinky Face" fame) is a sweet tale of a young girl who inspires creativity in her art teacher. Miss Hawthorn is very particular in her assignments for her art students. She tells them to draw a tree and hangs an example of a round green top with a straight brown trunk. Willow decides to draw a pink swirly tree and gets in trouble for not following the example. The book continues on with the teacher giving assignments and Willow continuing to use her imagination to think outside the box. Miss Hawthorn thinks she's a dreadful child who can't follow instructions. When Christmas rolls around, no one brings any gifts for Miss Hawthorn, except for Willow. She gives Miss Hawthorn her favorite book of famous art. Touched by the little girl's thoughtfulness, the teacher is inspired to start doing her own artwork. And by the end of Christmas break Miss Hawthorn is a new kind of teacher. Not one who just gives out the same art assignment over and over again expecting the students to follow it, but a teacher who encourages her students to be imaginative, think on their own and let their creativity flow!

Overall, this is a fun book that grade-school age children will enjoy. The illustrations are wonderful and colorful! I am recommending this book, but I just have to say the art teacher's attitude toward the teaching of art was a bit disturbing (from an adult's point of view). Obviously, I think anyone who expects the children to just copy an example and not put any of their own thought into it, really shouldn't be teaching art. And the other thing that bothered me was a page where the art teacher "doodled for the first time in her life". Wouldn't most art teachers have some sort of art background? And wouldn't they have "doodled" at some point in their lives? These are extremely minor gripes on my part. And they really do need to be in the story for it to make sense. Just me being a bit nit-picky. ;-)

On the other hand, Barney Saltzberg's Beautiful Oops is an absolutely brilliant book for children of any age! This wonderfully tactile book teaches children that there are no mistakes when it comes to art. Just take an "oops" and turn into something beautiful. It's so funny that this book exists because my mantra for my children when it comes to art is "Art doesn't have to be perfect." I cannot tell you how many times I've said that to my girls. My older daughter is very Type A and if her art isn't perfect by her standards, she gets upset. I try to be patient with her (and her frustration) and offer suggestions for how she can incorporate the "oops" into the artwork or simply not worry about it. But there have been times when she just throws in the towel and will refuse to finish a project. We've been through two summers of art projects now, so I think my "art doesn't have to be perfect" mantra is finally sinking in. Now, both my girls don't get quite so upset if their paint drips in a spot they weren't intending or if their paper rips.

I love all the textures in this book. And the pages are VERY durable. Even small children can enjoy this book. There are multiple flaps and holes to look through. Bright colors and fun illustrations. Here are a few (images were taken from the Barnes & Noble webpage):
While I think children will enjoy both of these books, Beautiful Oops is definitely one that should be purchased for every child's library!