There are plenty of picture books out there about having a dream, holding on to it, and making it a reality, from Ruth Krauss’ The Carrot Seed to Oliver Jeffers’ How to Catch a Star (thanks, Cathy!) and today’s book is a stunning new addition to that canon: Following my Paint Brush by Dulari Devi and Gita Wolf
Following my Paint Brush is a true-life biography of an artist, who started out life in such a poor family that as a girl she had to wash dishes for other families to help make ends meet. Thanks to a chance encounter with someone who encouraged her when she expressed an interest in painting, she persevered and realised her dream of creating art, of capturing images in her mind that told stories. It’s an optimistic tale, told simply and elegantly, but what really makes Following my Paint Brush stand out from the crowd is its illustrations.
The biography told is that of Dulari Devi, an artist who works in the Mithila style which originates in the state of Bihar in eastern India, and it is her own artwork that fills this book. The style is unlike that I’d ever seen before in a children’s book; the matching of a familiar type of story with unfamiliar art works effectively: At one and the same time, this is (or could be) a story of “everyman”, but is also the story of one very remarkable woman.
The colours and detail in Devi’s artwork really appealed to both M and J. It became a game to look for for tiny images (especially of fish) hidden in the highly patterned pictures. Although depicting scenes from another country and culture, my girls could identify with many things they saw for example the children playing in the street and Devi’s fondness as a child for lining up pots and pans in rows. They experienced both the otherness and similarity of another way of viewing the world.
The book as a physical object is also a delight to hold – from the eyecatching neon pink cover, to the satisfyingly thick paper used inside. Following my Paint Brush is an unusual, fascinating book that I hope will find its way into many children’s hands.
Inspired by Following my Paint Brush we first went on a treasure hunt to find all the different brushes we could in and around our home.
We then set about using them to paint with, exploring how different brushes can be used for different techniques.
It was such fun to do some painting that was all about the process, rather than the final, finished product.
Taking a single type of object (in this case, a brush) and focussing on it definitely brought out a different sort of creativity with the girls.
Whilst painting we listened to:
Other activities which could be fun alongside reading Following my Paint Brush include:
What was your most recent creative endeavour where it was all about the process rather than the product? And what’s your favourite picture book about following your dream?
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, remains my own and honest opinion.