Written by Victoria Strauss
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.