Illustrated by Bex Glendining
In this title, readers are presented with details of the life of sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis, a woman of Native American and African American descent. Her educational journey was distinctly and full of prejudice and false assumptions, so she wasn’t allow to finish college. She felt drawn to sculpting, and tried to find a teacher under whom she could apprentice. After several re-elections, she finally found someone who would train her in the art of bust-making. When buying busts became less fashionable, she moved to Rome to fully immerse herself in the art form. While in Rome, she was criticized for spending money on piano lessons and attending parties of the elite, but, arguably, she had to associate herself worth the people who were more likely to buy sculptures. Her most famous work is the Death of Cleopatra, which was almost lost to time and weather when it was placed outside the entrance to a horse racing track.
There are a few times where the intelligence of the reader is questioned. This topic is definitely an important one, and Edmonia Lewis was not someone I was familiar with before picking up this book. However, within the story, it was repeatedly stated that her story is important, and we can't let her be forgotten. I felt that was entirely unnecessary. Readers are smart and can figure out how important it is to remember a groundbreaking woman. Let the work speak for itself. The other place readers were questioned is in the constant re-introduction of Edmonia's benefactors, Lydia Maria Child. Every time her name is mentioned, it is also mentioned that she is one of Edmonia's long-time supporters from America. If readers truly are going to forget so quickly, include a cast of characters in the back for quick reference, rather than repeatedly stating information.
Maybe I'm asking too much of graphic nonfiction, but the story of Edmonia was presented with a lot of narration that accompanied illustrations of her going about her tasks, sculpting, talking with other people, etc. This work did not present Edmonia's story in a story format. I felt like an onlooker, glimpsing into windows of Edmonia's life, rather than a passenger traveling with her. In this way, I don't feel that the creators have embraced the graphic narrative format, but that this was a more complex picture book.
Sara's Rating: 6/10
Suitability Level: Grades 7-12
This review was made possible with a digital reader copy from the publisher.
Tags: Rating: 6/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, Biography
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