The Art of Being Remmy
A blast from the past--with hopes for the future
This illustrated, funny, coming-of-age novel takes place in 1965 when mid-1960s attitudes kept girls in their place. 12-year-old Remmy Rinaldi is determined to be an artist, in spite of her father's objections, competition from a boy, and possibly losing her best friend.
Remmy and best friend Debbie have ambitious resolutions for the brand new year (besides meeting the Beatles, of course). Debbie loves all things French, including a new boy she targets as her boyfriend. Remmy is determined to win the art awards at the end of seventh grade to prove to Dad that, in spite of his mysterious objections, she is destined to be an artist (and not some secretary stuck behind a typewriter).
Remmy's rival and all-around goofball Bill insists that all great artists are men and Remmy can't possibly beat him in the art contest. So Remmy pushes her talents to the max even if it means going behind Dad's back with a super secret plan. In the meantime, Remmy may be losing Debbie's friendship to a devious Rat Fink from French Club. Can art bring her best friend back or just make things even worse?
Remmy discovers what friendship really means and helps others find their true callings while staying true to her own Spark of an Artist.
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About the Author
Remmy's amusing voice, decency, and ambition make her an appealing character... A highly entertaining and thoughtful tale.
In Mary Zisk's middle-grade novel, The Art Of Being Remmy, a 12-year-old New Jersey girl in 1965 defies sexist stereotypes--and her father--to take art lessons.
Four years ago, back in third grade, Rosella Maria Rinaldi's art teacher dubbed her "a regular little Rembrandt," and kids have called her "Remmy" ever since. The teacher recommended that Remmy keep "the spark of an artist" alive, so the tween resolves that her upcoming year in seventh grade will be "The Year of My Spark." Dampening her fire, though, is her father, who insists that "No daughter of mine will ever become an artist," ...Nevertheless, she finds work to pay for secret art lessons.
In the months leading up to an art contest that Remmy hopes to win, her personal relationships have ups and downs. Her best friend...starts hanging out with another girl in the French club, often leaving Remmy (who doesn't speak French) out of their conversations...Bill, a former childhood friend, has sexist notions ("You know, all great artists are men"), but he also suffers because of gendered expectations, as he'd rather make art than play sports. This revelation brings him and Remmy closer together. She also learns more about her father's past and what it was that's made him so dead-set against art as a career. Remmy's artistic efforts bring mixed results, but she sticks to her resolution.
... Zisk illustrates the story with Remmy's lively, expressive line drawings, which show that Remmy does have some skill; at the same time, they are believably the work of a talented 12-year-old. Remmy expresses delight in color and pays attention to visuals throughout the narrative, which helps to establish her as a budding artist...Remmy's painting classes, too, provide readers with an authentic sense of what the education of a young painter is like: "composition, proportion, mixing colors (or tones of gray, in my case), brush strokes, shadows, highlights."
Also authentic, and perhaps surprising to many young readers today, is the depiction of the struggle of women artists to gain recognition. H.W. Janson's History of Art is a real book, and Zisk correctly notes that it didn't include any women until the 1987 edition.
BOOKLIST PRIZE--The "coming-of-age" theme and junior high setting of this tale will be familiar to middle grade readers. With its briskly paced plot and strong voice, the story will hold readers' attention well until the last page.
The Art of Being Remmy really is a fun and original novel, enhanced by quirky graphic illustrations. The story of Remmy's drive to be an artist, while handling the drama of junior high, is a real page turner. I even teared up a bit at the end! Teachers may find it fits well with STEAM curriculum. --Roxie Munro, author/illustrator of Masterpiece Mix