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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
by Polly Dunbar
Katie was feeling gray. She was stuck inside with no one to talk to except herself.
The picture on Katie's wall looked like a much better place to be.
--Flyaway Katie, Polly Dunbar, p. 1-2.
Katie's feeling lonely and gray. The painting hanging on the wall looks colorful and fun. So she gives herself some color by dressing in bright colors and painting herself. That's when she flies into the painting and spends the afternoon there, until she's feeling better, and washes everything off in the bath.
The paintings show Katie's emotional and mental state beautifully, moving from a colorless Katie standing in a pale blue background, the only other colors being the interesting painting on the wall, to more and more controlled splashes of vibrant color as Katie gradually dons clothes and paint. Katie's smile also grows with the color she adds.
By the time Katie is feeling good again, with paint dripping off her, her happiness is shown through the bright colors and shapes that drip, splat, and burst from her, until she flutters into the colorful painting. The background also becomes brighter, and the delightful splashes of colored shapes and stars remain with Katie, even in her bath.
The paintings are enclosed in narrow gray frames until the paint flies off her, and then in every page after that, paint either flies through the frames, or there are no frames at all, expressing freedom and joy.
Text bubbles augment the story text, adding to our understanding of why Katie's doing what she's doing. The text moves quickly, flows well, and is paired well with each drawing, sometimes a whole sentence, sometimes a partial sentence to make a point.
We don't see her adventures in the painting; we just learn that she stayed there all afternoon, and from the visuals we glean that she feels better for it. I would have liked another sentence or two at the end of the book for a deeper satisfied feeling; the text has a slightly unfinished feeling to me, but the pictures clearly tell us that she is happy.
Flyaway Katie lets readers know that they can use their imagination and creativity to escape loneliness or pain, and to change how they feel. It also reminds readers that being alone with nothing to do doesn't have to be a negative experience—with imagination, so much is possible. This is an uplifting, enjoyable read; the images alone are joy-inducing. Highly recommended.
-Added November 2006
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