Archive for Art

Dreary & Naughty: Friday the 13th of February

Written by John LaFleur
Illustrated by Shawn Dubin

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Monsters and romance make an interesting combination for young people. It is not often one can find a rhyming picture book at the sixth grade reading level. Because it is a rhyming picture book for older children, many higher level words are used which might help to build vocabulary and comprehension skills. Since the book is so short, it is not likely to find its way onto many reading lists, but will be a good way to get reluctant readers engaged.

Dreary & Naughty: Friday the 13th of February is a most unusual book for older children. The two protagonists in the book are sophomores in Whispering Hills High School in a small, monster-filled town. Dreary is a skeleton boy and Naughty a beautiful devil girl. All the boys have a crush on Naughty, but it’s Dreary with whom she spends her time. The last day of school before Valentine’s Day, Friday the 13th of February, finds Dreary with nary a Valentine card while Naughty has received hundreds. They spend the evening with Greta Ghoul watching movies at Naughty’s house. Dreary spends the rest of the night working on a wonderful, handcrafted gift for Naughty. When he presents it to her on Valentine’s Day, Naughty realizes Dreary is the one for her. She has nothing for him, but it’s not too late.

The story is a sweet one for a book full of monsters, and young people will enjoy the story. The rhyming is often forced, there are several near rhymes, and the meter is uneven at best, but the artwork, the characters, and the story will find fans for this book and the others in the series. Reluctant readers will be enticed by this little book.

Shawn Dubin has a web site focusing on his art at and a blog at which students should find interesting.

There are two other picture books by the same authors in this series: Dreary and Naughty: The ABCs of Being Dead and The Misadventures of Dreary and Naughty.

  • Friday the 13thTitle: Dreary & Naughty: Friday the 13th of February
  • Author: John LaFleur
  • Illustrator: Shawn Dubin
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, 2013
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0764344954
  • Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Poetry, Graphic book
  • Grade Level: Six and up

Passion Blue

Written by Victoria Strauss

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If you think this is about the passions of a young woman, you’re right. But it turns out her real passion is painting, and passion blue is a specific color that is not easy to reproduce. In the Italian Renaissance, women were considered incapable of complex thought. Giulia is a seventeen-year-old girl who loves to draw, but she is at the mercy of an evil stepmother. Her father, who was never married to her mother, has died and left money for her dowry. His widow uses the dowry to buy Giulia’s way into a convent. Determined to get out and find a husband, Giulia uses sorcery and astrology to aid her in her quest. When the nuns discover her artistic talents, she is assigned to apprentice in a workshop famous for making altar pieces. While she plots to leave, Giulia finally figures out that what she really wants is to paint, and that a husband would frown on that pursuit. This complex tale is about coming of age, being happy with who you are, and the plight of women and other people who are suppressed.

Recommended for sixth grade readers and up, the text includes a lot of detail about what life was like in the Italian Renaissance and also what it’s like to be at someone else’s mercy. Reading activities could include learning more about the era, the rights of women, about specific painters, and about painting itself. How do you get a true blue? How is tempera made? Why do many painters prefer oil? This may appear to be a book for girls, but boys can certainly benefit from reading it. Giulia does conduct clandestine meetings with a young man, but there is no sex to shock the reader.

  • Passion BlueTITLE: Passion Blue
  • AUTHOR: Victoria Strauss
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-0-0-7614-6230-9
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 346 pages
  • GENRE: Women, Italian Renaissance