Relaxation wasn’t something my parents encouraged. To them, doing nothing wasted life. To this day, I can still hear their voices echo each evening, “What do you have to show for this day?” Translation: What did you accomplish? What did you create? And can we please see it? The one thing I did every day and loved to do every day was creating art.
Looking back at those days, whether I was at home, school, the bank, a restaurant, or in the backseat of the family car, I drew pictures of the world and people around me. I was never without paper, pencils, and watercolors. True then, true now. And although I don’t illustrate my picture book manuscripts, I often sketch the actions of my characters to help me visualize them, see their environments, and make sure I’m changing scenes with my page turns.
The picture book I chose to review today stars Bridget, a young artist who believes she needs to wear a black beret – “The kind of hat that lots of Great Artists wear.” in order to make art. I wish I had known about the hat when I was a child. Like Bridget, I had an image in my mind of what artists should look like, but my image didn’t include that wonderful hat. I pictured an artist wearing a smock with more paint splatters than fabric showing, dried paint in many shades on the hands, and slightly disheveled hair that made the bold statement, “I’m too busy being creative to care about such petty details as my appearance.” But enough about my image of what an artist looks like. It’s time to meet Bridget!
Title – Bridget’s Beret
Written by – Tom Lichtenheld
Illustrated by – Tom Lichtenheld
Published by – Christy Ottaviano Books – 2010
Suitable for ages – 3-7
Topics – preconceived notions, art, creativity, confidence, artist’s block
Opening – Bridget was drawn to drawing. She liked to draw as much as other kids liked ice cream.
Amazon Review – View it HERE. Bridget loves to draw, and she likes to wear a beret for inspiration. So when her beloved hat blows away, Bridget searches for it high and low. She files a Missing Beret Report. She even considers other hats, but none of them feel quite right. It’s no use; without her beret, Bridget can’t seem to draw. How will she overcome her artist’s block?
Make sure to check out Bridget’s notebook scribbles at the end of the book for her thoughts and facts on art!
Bridget’s Beret is a 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Why do I like this book? Because I was much like Bridget when I was a child, (minus the beret) but bursting with artistic visions I drew on every sheet of paper, napkin, borders of homework, and backs of notebooks, I felt a kinship to this little girl who loses her hat and with it, the feeling she can no longer create art. The revelation Bridget experiences when she discovers her artistic ability lies inside her and not in the beret is a beautiful, triumphant moment for the reader. Yes, the reader. Because we see her artistic gift return long before Bridget does. And, when the neighbors believe the many lemonade stand signs she painted for her little sister are really advertisements for her art opening, the reader cheers louder still. Tom Lichtenheld, whom I recently had the pleasure of listening to at the SCBWI Spring Thaw Conference, has a powerful gift both as a writer and as an illustrator, and those gifts shine in Bridget’s Beret. (A picture book I’ll be adding to my shelf very soon.)
Learn more about Tom Lichtenheld HERE.