Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review: 'Artania' by Laurie Woodward

California author Laurie Woodward is a teacher who is everything we hope teachers of our children can be – anti-bullying, a devotee of the arts, and a promoter of peace, sharing innovations, ideas, and inspirational stories of children working for peace, as well as through the art on her website and DVDs. As she has stated, "I want children to see the magic inside them."

Laurie shares her impetus for writing ARTANIA – ‘Several years ago when education changed to stress test score results over everything else, I began to think of art as a living part of children that was being crushed. But I have watched children create and discover the wonder inside. To me, Shadow Swine represent bullies who subdue that most beautiful part of children. “Our world will be saved when their art is true,” the Artanian Prophecy says. Every year I tell my students how every sketch, painting, or sculpture instantaneously becomes a living being in Artania. Then I stand back as they hurriedly scribble a creature, hold it up, and ask, “Was this just born?” “It sure was,” I reply with a smile. “You just made magic.” And for that cool moment, they believe.’

So how does Laurie create such visual images with the aid of illustrations? It takes only a glance at page one to get a glimpse into her magic: ‘The air was more antiseptic than usual that spring morning. Coughing on bleach fumes, Bartholomew Borax III rolled out of bed and put on his monogrammed robe. That's when he noticed the strange noise. He cocked his head. It sounded nothing like the usual sloshing mops or whirring vacuum cleaners. When Bartholomew opened his bedroom door and poked his head into the long hallway, a muffled wail met his ears. “Hic-hic-hic-hoo. Hic-hic-hic-hoo.” Pulling last night's precious sketch from under his pillow, Bartholomew gazed at it for a moment. There three generations painted side-by-side. Although impossible, it was a dream he'd had many times. It would have been amazing, Grandfather, Father, and me, all bound in color. Last night, he'd finally escaped prying eyes long enough for his hands to race over the page. While his pencil scratched furiously, the impossible took shape, and for a while, he lived in the dream. Sighing, Bartholomew tucked the sketch in his pocket and patted it flat. With the forbidden art safe from snoops, he tiptoed down the winding staircase to the front parlor.’

The synopsis provided is solid and a fine entry into Artania – ‘Eleven-year-old Bartholomew Borax III can’t go to school, play outside or worst of all, make art... so he sketches in secret. After he meets the skateboarding painter, Alexander DeVinci, they're yanked into another realm by a magical painting. Their own world is nothing in comparison to Artania: a world with living paintings and sculptures. But Artania is on the verge of destruction, and Bartholomew's art is the only thing that can save it. With Egyptian gods and goddesses at his side, Bartholomew braves battles, duels and skateboarding escapes. With his growing powers, Bartholomew is the only one who can defeat the evil Sickhert's army and bring art back to the world.’

Art, art history, and warm philosophy are present throughout this excellent book which is bound to be in line for awards. Grady Harp, December 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.