By Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan,
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
Miss Hawthorn’s room is neat and tidy, not a pencil or paintbrush is out of place. And that’s how she likes it.
And she likes trees that are colored green and apples that are painted red. Miss Hawthorn does not like things to be different or out of the ordinary. Into Miss Hawthorn’s classroom comes young Willow. She doesn’t color inside the lines, she breaks crayons, and she sees pink trees and blue apples.
What will Miss Hawthorn think? Magical things can happen when your imagination is allowed to run wild, and for Miss Hawthorn the notion of what is art and what is possible is forever changed.
In dictatorial Miss Hawthorn’s cheerless art room, students sit “in their rows, silent and still, like eggs in a carton” producing cookie-cutter busywork. “Everyone except Willow.”
Miss Hawthorn does not appreciate Willow’s sweet nature or her inventive, colorful outlook on life. Willow is always in trouble with her wizened teacher, especially “for not painting things the way Miss Hawthorn wanted her to.” When she tries to share her artistic excitement via a well-loved art book full of flamingo-pink trees, blue apples and other works of wonder, Miss Hawthorn rebuffs her. “Horrid little girl.”
But stony Miss Hawthorn is transformed by a holiday gift-the only one she receives-of that treasured art book, and when her students return after the holidays, they find a very different teacher, indeed. Motivational speaker Brennan-Nelson’s message hits its mark, and Moore’s energetic watercolors fairly vibrate-Willow would approve! Pair this with Peter Reynolds’s The Dot (2003) and Paul Zelinsky’s Doodler Doodling (2004) for an outside-the-lines art experience.
Willow by Rosemarie Brennan has been named to the 2009-2010 Kids’ Wings Award List. At a time when imagination is often ignored in a test-driven educational world, Willow is a creative, inspiring metaphor of the perseverence of an out-of-the-box child in an inside-the-box world.
The illustrations demonstrate the determination and contagious brilliance that can result when someone inside the box feels a glimmer and is inspired to peep out! Willow will be showcased on its own Kids’ Wings Webpage. Thousands of librarians in Texas and across the USA use the Kids’ Wings lists to guide their ordering for their libraries and recommendations to their teachers for classroom use.
Diane Chen, School Library Journal
I had a narrow escape with this book today. Beloved guest blogger and art teacher Julie was looking at Willow with me during my workshop when I suddenly remembered how much I LOVE this book and I was afraid she’d ask me if she could keep it. I can’t help it, if she’d asked me, I would have HAD to give her this book. But, I love it. I discovered tonight how much I enjoyed even the end pages. Every time I read it, I discover something new. Aha! There’s an illuminated letter. Wow! Look at those colors that would make David Catrow smile.
Yes, reader, you are right. Julie could use this book in all her art classes and it would be a hit. In fact, this might go in the permanent substitute file in the office as one of the spare lesson plans to always have on hand for the art program. No? You’re right, you want to make sure it’s read, not left to chance.
Julie deserves this book because she understands all the art references in it. But then, I could have students research and find out to what all those references refer. Besides the art teacher looks more like me than Julie. At least when she is pretty she looks more like me. Not when she is wearing dark clothes, has her hair tight in a bun, and has “moods… as dark as her clothing.” Nope, I never let any of you see my hair in a bun, that’s my weekend only disguise. Although…, Miss Hawthorn does mutter “Horrid little girl” with such feeling, that I think I could dramatically pretend to be her.
Julie and I discussed the dreaded art teacher in this book who insists that everyone draw exactly as she wishes and to keep the art room tidy and neat. Julie is quite beautiful and not at all mean. So I asked her, “Have you ever seen an art teacher as mean and dreadful as this?”
Julie said she has many art teacher friends and NONE of them are like that, but she has heard of one or two like this from “friends & family.” Are there really dreaded art teachers out there? Or is this a school version urban legend?
In the meantime, I’m going to curl up and re-read this book again before Julie remembers and calls for it. Thank you, Cyd Moore for the great illustrations. I hope to see many more Moore books soon.
Book Lovers Blog
…Also a lot of fun, Brennan-Nelson’s Willow. This one is the story of a young girl in an art teacher’s class. The teacher is very uptight, and Willow, shall we say, is not. She’s fun, she’s artistic, and her creativity is just bursting out of her. A really fun book, with an irrepressible spirit, much like that of Pippi Longstocking. Fom Sleeping Bear Press & highly recommended.
Just One More Book!
Just One More Book is a thrice-weekly podcast which promotes and celebrates literacy and great children’s books.
In June, 2008, Just One More Book featured Willow – listen to the podcast right here!