Ages: 9-12

Merrimon Book Reviews

Vincent Van Gogh

Frida Kalho

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by Edvard Munch

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Noonie's Masterpiece
Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback
by Lisa Railsback
Illustrated by Sarajo Frieden

Noonie is an undiscovered famous artist in the making.  Since most famous artists are not discovered until after their death, ten year old Noonie writes her story now for those who will come afterwards.  Noonie lives with her aunt and family while her father, an archeologist, travels the world.  Noonie's mother has died.  Noonie, feeling alone and misunderstood, chronicles her blue period, her purple period, her grief, and her family's reaction to her art and her odd  behavior.  Despite her grief and antics, Noonie is a girl with imagination and the courage to be different.  Some of her cries for help are a bit obvious and often over the top, particularly as seen through adult eyes, and yet to the reader looking on, these scenes provide a sense of humor and insight into the character.  Noonie is joyful, flamboyant and offbeat even at the same time that she misses her parents. The illustrations are colorful and lively --- a true celebration of art and everyday life as seen through an artist's eye.  Quite simply, the illustrations express and reflect the vibrant, dramatic character within Noonie, a side of her not necessarily seen by those around her.  Noonie carries an overdue library book "Masterpieces" around with her that describes the great artists, their works and their lives.  These artists are her friends.  Although she has an understanding of art beyond her age, her behavior and social relations do not match her artistic maturity.  Through her art, she discovers a changed relationship with her family.  Through her art and her letters, her family grow to understand her more.

NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE is a special book for a certain reader, a reader that might not fit into the age specific stereotype, but an important audience, nevertheless.  Depending on the individual reader, this book might resonate best with younger or older ages.  My childhood best friend (an artist) would have loved reading this book at the target age but other advanced readers might find it too young. 
Some precocious children will easily relate to Noonie's spirit but find the resolution a tad too quickly cozy or normalizing.  The father is not a perfect father and the family does not meet the perfect ideal standard.  For those children whose families do not follow the perfect pretty picture (and few do as one discovers later in the book), NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE resonates without dragging a reader down.  For some children, NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE might be a catalyst, encouraging them to speak to their families about their feelings.

NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE is most definitely one of those special children's books that will develop an adult following.  At heart, NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE is a book about having the courage to be an artist, to feel, and to express one's feeling.  NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE would make a great gift for parents and grandparents to give to their adult artist children, or vice-versa. 
NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE would make a great gift for artist and author friends.  If you have a friend who has recently experienced manuscript rejection or artistic rejection, NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE would be a wonderful cheering gift to give.  If you, yourself, are an artist or author, NOONIE'S MANUSCRIPT is a must for your library or studio.  NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE is a celebration of art, the human spirit and the gift of reaching outwards to others.  In one sense, the person is the masterpiece as well as the art.

Publisher: Chronicle Books (February 24, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Merrimon Book Reviews

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