[Reviewed by Sarah Melton]
“Portrait of a Girl and Her Art” is not about one girl, but several young female artists, as seen through the eyes of writer, teacher and illustrator Elena Caravela. While it’s seldom wise to judge a book by the cover, in this particular case it’s feasible. The cover shows a very well-done collage of portraits, showing each of the girls’ unique and vibrant personalities. Upon reading the book (with my own daughter, age 10), we realized that the book expanded upon those portraits with the touching descriptions of each girl, quotes from the young artists themselves about their art, and examples of each of the girls chosen art forms, from paints to pottery to collage.
For adults, this book is a glimpse into the lives of these special girls, and a reminder of the raw, powerful emotions of our own adolescent years. For children (particularly young girls with an artistic bent), it’s an inspirational book full of like-minded kids and a bevy of projects and creative ideas to incorporate into their own lives. My daughter was particularly moved by a collage shown, and started making her own work in that medium within the week.
The most touching aspect of the book (to this reader at least) was hearing how art helped each of these girls through one aspect or another of their lives. One girl used art to express her emotions with growing up amid hardships, where another wished to make others happy with her creations. Rachel, an artist featured both in the book and on the writers website, stated: “You can draw what you feel and no one will ridicule you or tell you it’s silly.” Quotes like that speak volumes about the issues that affect today’s young artists, if not all youth, who are struggling to freely express themselves without fear of judgment or unworthiness in the eyes of adults and their peers.
This book would be a great gift to a young artist, particularly those who struggle with feeling validity or approval of their expressions, in whatever medium they choose. Elena Caravela still continues to accept and feature youth artwork on her website, http://portraitofagirlandherart.wordpress.com, and hopes to continue inspiring young artists for years to come. To learn more about the writer and her art, visit her website at http://www.elenacaravela.net/.