The Art of Miss Chew

by Patricia Polacco

Other authorsPatricia Polacco (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2012

Call number



G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: First Edition, 1st Printing, 40 pages


Describes how a teacher named Miss Chew encouraged individuality, and accepted learning differences, and helped a young student with academic difficulties get extra time to take tests and permission to be in advanced art classes. Inspired by the author's memories of her art teacher.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Lisa2013
recommended for: everybody, especially teachers, art students, kids who have learning differences

Oh, when the inside front and back covers and book dedication already had me close to crying, I knew this was going to be one of the Patricia Polacco books where I’d be sobbing my eyes out, or feeling
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like doing so, and those are the books by her that are my favorites. And this one is now among my favorite books by one of my favorite picture book authors.

Thanks so much to Abigail I own a copy (I hope Abigail read this before she sent it, and if not luckily has another “great Polacco book” left to read) and I was able to read this in advance of official publication. I am so grateful. What a great present! (And the term present has meaning in the book too.)

Very interesting to me, I’m not normally a huge fan of Polacco’s art by itself, but enjoy it in relation to her stories. In this book, about her journey as an artist, and containing pictures of drawings and a painting reflecting work she did as a young person, in addition to the story’s paintings, I enjoyed the artwork in this book more than in any other Polacco book, and I’ve now read all her books. I really liked all the artwork in this book. I particularly liked the drawing of her cat within the painting of her cat, but I liked the art on all the pages.

The story is one of Polacco’s best, and as is typical is autobiographical, and as usual had me near tears.

Her account shows the importance of art, of the arts being taught in schools, and how both good and bad teachers can have a lifelong influence on children.

The book’s description field has an excellent summary of the story so I feel no need to repeat any of that, but I’ll say it can’t quite capture the wonderful emotional tone Polacco manages to create in her telling.

Love the story, love the art, and appreciate the author-illustrator sharing her life’s experiences with today’s children. In addition to pure enjoyment derived from reading/viewing this book, I can see it (and many of Polacco’s other books) being emotionally and practically helpful to so many readers.

This book can and should (in my opinion) be enjoyed by everybody but I particularly recommend it to all teachers and school administrators, reading specialists, art teachers, aspiring artists and established artists, kids who struggle with reading or learning differences, and writers who are thinking of writing autobiographies and biographies for children. It’s hard to pick a reading age range for this book. Although it is wonderfully and fully illustrated, it is text heavy. I’d say for read aloud age 5 and up is okay, through age 11, and for independent reading I’d say (depending on the person) ages 8 or 9 through 13 and then all the way up. I’m way into adulthood years and I loved it. I’d like to see this book in every K-8 school library.

I definitely recommend it to all the usual suspects, all my friends, of all ages, who enjoy children’s picture books.
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LibraryThing member FalenD
The Art of Miss Chew follows a middle schooler named Patricia. Patricia loves art but is failing school. Her teacher, from Ireland, finds that she needs extra time to read her tests and allows her this time. She begins to pass every test and starts to take an after school art class from a Chinese
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high school art teacher. Patricia's teacher's father dies and must go to Ireland leaving his class with a substitute. The substitute isn't very nice and does not allow Patricia extra time on her tests, suggesting that she should read faster and not be allowed to spend so much on art. This situation is brought to the attention of the school and they have a intervention meeting. Patricia's regular teacher finally returns and the substitute is fired. In the end Patricia's art is displayed in an art show.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
A heartfelt tribute to a compassionate and inspiring teacher.
LibraryThing member maybedog
This is a good solid story about giving a girl a chance to realize her potential and overcome obstacles. Polacco had a reading learning disability in the 60's and ran into trouble getting support for it at one point. There also was no art instruction available in her middle school at all. How
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things have changed! Even with a depletion in money for the arts, I don't know any middle school that doesn't even have a very basic art curriculum.

The illustrations are happy and Polacco does a good job of relaying the feelings of the characters through their expressions. I don't think she is as good with body language but it's not too bad.

But there are a lot of things I found not as good about this book. First of all, I don't like how black and white it is. Two good teachers were amazing and always encouraged her and even when they did something wrong it was still great. For example, the art teacher called her Theresa from day one and never stopped. Most people would have a problem with this, especially an adolescent, but Polacco remembers this fondly.

The bad teacher, is horrible, evil even, because she is elderly and from a very different educational era and doesn't understand learning disabilities and how to accomodate them. There is no acknowledgement of this. In fact, at one point Polacco says that in a school meeting the woman scoffed and then proceeded to read an awful lot into that one noise, saying "as if she" and "maybe even." That feels very vindictive to me. This woman is so punished she is sent out of the school and never able to even be a substitute there again for any class. (How would Polacco, a middle-schooler, know that?)

I'm also not as fond of Polacco's illustrations as others are. I think they are competent but I am not overwhelmed. I don't like that she sketches them out first and then watercolors them in. This is just a style thing but I think she makes too many sketch strokes so it looks messy.

I also think her perspective is off. At one point the art teacher and the girl are in front of an easel and both, including their feet, are at such an angle they look like they are falling over. In another place, a person's body parts aren't in proportion and the angles of the people in the picture don't mesh with the furniture and with gravity. There were hands that were just not drawn well too.

I feel she just hurried it along like she had a deadline to meet. She is obviously capable. The flyleaves have examples of her drawings that are much more competent although nothing strikes me as particularly more advanced than a really good art 101 student.

So, 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 because of the black and white thinking.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Prolific picture-book author and artist Patricia Polacco turns once again to the events of her own childhood in The Art of Miss Chew, offering a poignant tribute to two teachers who played an important role in her development as a young artist. Returning from a summer spent with her
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artist-grandmother in Michigan, young Trisha longs to explore her own talents in that direction, but discovers that her school has no full-time art program. Her teacher, Mr. Donovan, who finds a solution to her test-taking difficulties, also recognizes her artistic potential, and sends her to the high school for special classes with Miss Chew. All goes well, until Mr. Donovan must return to Ireland for his father's funeral, and the substitute teacher, uninterested in helping Trisha to cope with her learning disabilities, insists that the art classes are the cause of her academic troubles. Can Trisha hold onto the classes that have brought her so much pleasure - classes that have taught her the art of seeing? With Miss Chew in her corner, absolutely!

As is often the case with Polacco's books, I was very moved when reading The Art of Miss Chew, and found myself sniffling a bit, as I came to the end. The importance of good teachers, to a child's development - although this is billed as a tribute to Miss Chew, I think it's clear that Mr. Donovan was just as important, in his way - is clearly highlighted in the story, as is the importance of art (and musical) education, something that is currently very much under threat in our educational system. I thought it was very telling that, through her art classes, and the new way of seeing that they open up for her, Trisha gains a better understanding of how she reads, and the specific area in which her difficulties lie. I was also struck, while reading, by the fact that both of these influential teachers are recent immigrants - Mr. Donovan comes from Ireland, and Miss Chew from China - since the perception these days, I sometimes feel, is that immigrants don't bring a lot of value to the communities they join. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, in an immigrant culture like ours! All in all, this is another lovely book from Polacco, well worth seeking out, both as a story of a young girl realizing her artistic potential, and as a reflection on the importance of a well-rounded educational curriculum.
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LibraryThing member KellyLPickett
Patricia is a very talented young artist, but seems to be having trouble in school because she can't seem to pass her tests. Before she knows it, time is up and she hasn't been able to finish them. He favorite teacher notices her struggle and allows her extra time to complete them and suddenly she
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is passing them all. He also notices how talented she is at drawing and recommends she meet with Miss Chew, the school's art teacher. It is in Miss Chew's art class that Patricia learns the language of art and the reality that she has a reading disability.
This book is the author's own story of her favorite art teacher and how much she helped change her life. It is a great story about the power of one teacher. it shows that struggles in school can be overcome and that even if one thing may be very hard, there is always something else that we can be very good at.
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LibraryThing member HannahRevard
Though Trisha's new art class with Ms. Chew, her talents flourish. However, she still has trouble reading. When her regular homeroom teacher has to go away, an impatient substitute makes her life much harder. Luckily, Ms. Chew gets together with a reading specialist and others to come up with a
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plan that allows her to succeed. This is a great book to share with all students because it shows that it's okay to be different and we all have strengths and weaknesses.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is a wonderful story that reinforces the importance of teachers and the marvelous contribution they make.

As usual, Polacco's stories as based on her life. As a child and young adult she struggled with a learning disability. A very special male teacher realized her artistic abilities and that
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she saw the world in a different way. Allowing more time for her to take tests, she grew confident.

Pointing her in the direction of a loving art teacher, Miss Chew, who realized her unique talent and encouraged her, was a life-changing experience.

Miss Chew not only mentored her, but as Polacco credits her, she mentions that solely because of Miss Chew she managed to earn a scholarship to California College of Arts.

And, as I read more and more of Polacco's books, I too am thankful for a teacher that made a significant contribution, thus enabling many to enjoy Polacco's magical tales and unique images.
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LibraryThing member marabie
Polacco amazes me with every book of hers that I read . She uses bright pictures and caputures every feeling and action of the characters. This story shows the impact that teachers have on children. It also shows that sometimes there might be a reason why you excel in one subject and are slow at
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another. The main character sees the space around the words instead of reading the words. Therefore she needs more time to take test. She excels at art and attends a program after. Polacco had a learning disability when she was younger like the character in her book. She overcame it and became a wonderful author and illustrator. Polocca often relates her books to her own person life. I would read this to my class if a student had a learning disability and needed a boost of confidence.
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LibraryThing member NanceeL
Great story about art and how important some teachers are in a childs life.
LibraryThing member tramtran
Trisha knew her subjects in class quite well, but keep failing all her tests. Her homeroom teacher Mr. Donovan understand her struggles and let her take as much time as she needed on her tests. When he found out her talent for art, he introduces Trisha to a high school art teacher name Miss Chew.
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With the help of Miss Chew, Trisha learned a new language, the language of art. Miss Chew one day realizes the way Trisha looks at words is different from the normal person. Trisha tend to look at the negative space rather than the word itself and that was the main reason why she's a slow reader. Unfortunately her substitute teacher couldn't understand that. She felt that Trisha needed to focus in studying rather than get distracted by her art class. Mrs. Chew knew how important art is for students like Trisha, so she did everything she could to fight for Trisha's right to attend art class. This story was inspired by the Patricia's Polacco 's real life experience. Miss Chew taught her the true beauty of art. Also because of her, the author was able to get a scholarship to California College of Art. Miss Chew was her inspiration. This story shows the great impact a great teacher can have on a student's life. Miss Chew believed in Trisha's talent and support her creativity. Same thing goes with her homeroom teacher Mr. Donovan. Even though Trisha wasn't a great reader or the best test taker, he acknowledged her true talent in art.
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LibraryThing member CasieBelaire
This was a great book. Mr. Donavan recognized that Patricia knew the subject, but wasn't able to score a passing grade on her tests. He allowed her more time and she was able to begin passing her tests. Then he saw her drawings. He hung it on the bulletin board where all of Patricia's classmates
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were in awe with how great the drawing was. Mr. Donovan saw something in Patricia. He told her about a program that Miss Chew, the head of the high school art department, offered for young artists on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Excited that she could finally explore art, Patricia went to the first class and was introduced by Miss Chew as Ther-esa Barber. Her name was Patricia, but she didn't care because she got to do something she loved to do. Miss Chew told the class to not just look, but to see them. Patricia "Ther-esa" took her sketch book everywhere and began drawing everything. Everything was going great at the art program and school until Mr. Donovan's father passed away. Mr. Donovan took some time for himself and a substitute came into the classroom and did not care that Mr. Donovan allowed Patricia more time on her tests. Mrs. Spaulding, the substitute told Patricia that instead of going to the art program she should be using that time to study. Mrs. Spaulding was going to make sure that Patricia wouldn't go to art classes. Upset, Patricia went to art class that afternoon and cried to Miss Chew. Miss Chew was certain that NO ONE would stop Patricia "Theresa" from taking this art class and even told her she was going to be in the high school's Spring Art Show. Miss Chew saw the talent that Patricia had. She suggested that Patricia see a reading specialist. The reading specialist, Dr. McClare, reassured Miss Chew that Patricia reads patterns, not words. In a meeting with the principal at Patricia's school everyone backed her need for more time except Mrs. Spaulding. That didn't matter because Mr. Donovan was back the next day and began giving Patricia extra time on the test and she started passing. In art class, Patricia was working on her painting for the art show. She was painting a picture of Mr. Donovan's dad who had passed away. Miss Chew gave Patricia a present after class one day and it was an old smock that use to be hers. Patricia loved it. The art show was here and Mr. Donovan stood in awe at Patricia's painting of his father, he was speechless. This was a defining moment in Patricia's life and that was when she knew she was going to be an artist, thanks to Miss Chew who saw the amazing talent Patricia had.
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LibraryThing member ccampeaux
This book is about how important the role of a teacher in to a student. Trisha’s artwork is so great that it lands her in a special class with Miss Chew. Focusing on her artwork primarily, Trisha’s grades start to fall. Her teacher says she should quit the special art class, but Trisha and Miss
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Chew disagree. Sticking to what she believes is best, Trisha stays in the art class. By the end of the book Trisha’s artwork is in an art show. Then, Trisha knew she had made the right decision and she couldn’t have done it without Miss Chew.
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LibraryThing member JenW1
Preparing to do preschool story time at work, I came across this gem. While it's too complex for a group preschool story time, it's perfect to read aloud to a child. Another heartfelt, uplifting story from Patricia Polacco, I highly recommend it for the elementary school crowd.
LibraryThing member MeganSchneider
A young girl, who is gifted in art, struggles with testing. She finds two teachers who do their best to accommodate her the best they can. When one of her teachers has a loss and leaves, she gets stuck with a really hard substitute and doesn't treat her with the respect she deserves, even snatching
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her test from her because she couldn't finish in time. Miss Chew, her art teacher, sets her up with a reading specialist who determines that she needs more time for testing and even though the sub disagrees, they make it happen. Once her real teacher returns she begins to pass her tests with flying colors and her art has never been better. The book does a good job at showing the struggles of someone who is gifted in one subject but struggles in another. It shows that they can be equally successful as other children with the right support behind them. I love this book and the way they portray teachers.
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LibraryThing member Robinsonstef
Patricia Polacco continues to amaze me. Most of her books are based on her life, or the life of her relatives. The drawings that accompany her stories have a unique style, and I can now recognize her illustrations right away. So far, I have been able to connect to all of her characters, whether I
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have been in their shoes or not. Reading the newest book about Trisha, The Art of Miss Chew, I couldn’t help but root for her. I hate to see anyone’s dreams dashed by others, especially adults. Drawing is something that I struggle with and continue to work on. I was so happy for Trisha when she got into the art program, and I loved her teacher, Mrs. Chew. Teachers can make such a difference in their students’ lives and watching things unfold kept me turning the pages. With the guidance of special teachers, we can all learn to look at the world in ways we never thought possible. I recommend this book to people of all ages because we all need a little magic in our lives, and we need people in our corner cheering us on. Art is so subjective and people look at the same pieces through the lenses of their own experiences. If you haven’t read this book, then you need to pick it up to see the ways that art can help someone discover who they are. You will be reminded of the teachers who have helped you along the way. This is a book you will want to read over and over again, and the pictures will speak to you!
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LibraryThing member jwesley
Based on the life of Patricia Polacco, The Art of Miss Chew illustrates the impact teachers have on children. When Trisha struggles to pass her weekly tests, her teacher begins to extend her test time. He also recognizes Trisha's artistic talent and recommends her to Miss Chew's art class. The
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story also introduces a substitute who tries to prevent Trisha from going to Miss Chew's class because she believes she's wasting her time. Overall, The Art of Miss Chew is a great book to use to show children the length teachers are willing to go to support their students. It's also an interesting book for children who are interested in art.
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LibraryThing member ebrossette
Parisha is a young student who struggles with a learning disability and has a love of art. Her teacher recommends her to take Miss Chew's art class. Miss Chew and Patrisha work together to strengthen Patrisha's art skills and stand up against a teacher who is rude and unaccommodating.
This is a
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great book that shows the importance of great teachers and what happens when students are given opportunities to grow in the classroom.
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0399257039 / 9780399257032


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