Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail by Lynn Hazen, illustrated by Doug Cushman

This is a story of art validated and finally appreciated. Seymour Snail has created art all his life; but is too shy to show anyone. When his friends accidentally find his art, they tell him it is so wonderful he should get a job as an artist. This sounds great to Seymour, so he sets out for the city. Unfortunately, he discovers that jobs for artists are a lot harder to find than he expected and he ends up working as an errand boy for nasty Mr. Stinkbug, an art gallery owner. Happily, the marvelous slime trails he has made across the park are discovered and he becomes a world-famous artist.

Some people will really like this story. Some people won't. I didn't. What mainly bugged me about this story is that Seymour's success is so criticism-free. Although he does say that he has been "practising all his life" there's no hint that he needs any outside opinions to improve his art. His friends think everything he does is perfect and his problem in finding a job isn't that his art needs work; it's that no one will look at it. As soon as someone "discovers" him, he's famous overnight. Now, this is a beginning chapter book and there's not a lot of space to talk about artistic struggles, but this story just puts me in mind too much of the people who regularly bug me at the library, wanting us to buy their self-published "masterpiece" because they are such a creative person and have been creative all their life. But they're too creative and have too much genius to join a critique group that actually critiques anything!

Verdict: On the other hand, this is a story about perseverance and belief in artistic vision. The plot is well-constructed and the characters are funny and perfectly drawn out in the illustrations. Kids who like Katie Speck's Maybelle series, slightly icky bug stories and drawing will probably enjoy this.

ISBN: 978-0805086980; Published May 2009 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from the library

1 comment:

e-maginary friend said...

As an artist and a writer my work has benefited from my participation in critique groups for over a decade. If this were a book for older children, the issue of criticism and its impact on creative development would be appropriate. However, there's really no room in this particular story for that weighty, complex topic. Shouldn't kids at this age be encouraged to revel in the pure joy of creation? I'm fairly sure the "Seymour" in them will be chastened (but hopefully not completely squished!) soon enough.