When Emily Carr Met Woo Reviews

School Library Journal

WhenEmilyCarrMetWoo_C“Gr 1-3–Internationally renowned Canadian artist and writer Emily Carr (1871–1945) painted the Pacific Northwest landscape and its indigenous culture at a time when these subjects were unfamiliar outside of this region. Kulling briefly describes how the fiercely independent and eccentric Carr lived during a period when opportunities for women were limited: few people bought her paintings, and she often had to find other ways to support herself. Carr loved animals and owned several dogs, cats, a parrot named Jane, and a rat named Susie, but her most unique pet—and the focus of this title—was her monkey, Woo. Woo loved pranks and caused havoc in the household, but one day, she ate a tube of paint, becoming incredibly sick. Through simple, accessible text complemented by bright, engaging watercolors, Kulling has written a charming story about an exceptional woman. While the author touches upon Carr’s work and art, the emphasis of this slim volume is on Carr as an animal lover. A short biographical sketch along with a historical photo is included at the back of the book. Pair this book with others about women who loved animals and who made a difference, such as George Ella Lyon’s Mother to Tigers (S. & S., 2003), Jane A. Schott’s Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas (Carolrhoda, 2000), and Patrick McDonnell’s Me…Jane (Little, Brown, 2011).”
—Paula Huddy, The Blake School-Highcroft Campus, Wayzata, MN

Booklist

“Emily Carr is one of Canada’s most celebrated painters and poets. Born in 1871 in British Columbia, Carr spent most of her life as a starving artist. This picture-book tells the story of Carr’s love of animals, her struggle to fit into mainstream life and make ends meet, and her adoption of a lovable monkey that she named Woo. For 15 years, Woo lived in Carr’s household, making mischief, providing companionship and accompanying Carr on artistic expeditions into the Canadian forests. However, when Woo takes her mischievous behavior too far, she puts her life in danger and leaves Carr desperate for his quick recovery. Full-color illustrations bear an uncanny likeness to the actual people and places they represent and are a perfect complement to the storybook-style narrative. Back matter includes photographs of Carr and Woo and a bibliography. This sweet story of friendship and love will spark interest in the art and poetry of a Canadian national treasure.”
—Erin Anderson

Resource Links

“A read aloud that will fascinate younger students as it focuses on Emily Carr’s love of animals and her eccentricities, while older readers may notice some of her artistic techniques and her love for the outdoors. Emily discovers a small monkey at the pet store in Victoria and takes [her] home to be part of the menagerie that lives with her, but Woo’s inquisitiveness and habit of collecting stray items gets [her] into trouble. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending for both the artist and Woo.

Emily Carr was trusted and respected by the First Nations people of the West Coast and this book misses the opportunity to present that aspect of her life. However, it is mentioned in the short biography and an adult sharing this lovely book may be able to bring this part of her life into the conversation.”

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Today, an Emily Carr masterpiece is much sought after by galleries and private collectors. However, when these iconic paintings of native culture and the wild beauty of the West Coast were being painted in the early 1900s, they were either misunderstood or ignored. The citizens in Victoria, BC, where Carr lived, were surprised when this eccentric individual adopted Woo, a small, forlorn monkey, to join her burgeoning menagerie. Although the mischievous Woo often created bedlam when she accompanied Emily, the monkey provided the artist with much joy and became her favourite pet. All went well, until one of Woo’s pranks nearly ended the monkey’s life.

Inspired by Emily Carr’s The Heart of the Peacock, published in 1953, Monica Kulling has written a captivating tale about the devotion between an unappreciated artist and her animals, Woo in particular. Using simple prose, Kulling portrays the joyous chaos in Carr’s domain, but also makes reference to the underlying threat of her precarious financial situation.

Dean Griffiths’ delightful watercolour and pencil illustrations depict the ambience of 1920s Victoria and its environs. The images of Carr and her social circle (both human and animal) are infused with a vitality that makes them much more than caricatures.

This publication contains historical photos, reproductions of Emily Carr’s art and an abbreviated biography, where one learns that Woo and Carr lived together for 15 years, until the artist became too ill to care for her pets. Woo lived out the rest of her days at Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo.”

CM Magazine

“…Dean Griffiths brings Woo and Emily to life with mixed-media paintings. Illustrating the story of another artist must surely be an intimidating task, but Griffiths captures Carr’s emotions clearly. Anyone who has visited Victoria will happily recognize some landmarks that Griffiths deftly includes.

When Emily Carr Met Woo will appeal to children who love animals, as well as art lovers. As an introduction to Emily Carr, who is often depicted as “a strange bird” or otherwise odd (even for an artist), the use of her mischievous monkey Woo will delight children and adults alike. When Emily Carr Met Woo is a definite addition to any home or classroom which values Canadian heritage. Highly Recommended.

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The National Reading Campaign 

“Award-winning author Monica Kulling’s When Emily Carr Met Woo offers a glimpse into the world of an iconic Canadian artist…Dean Griffith’s watercolour and pencil crayon illustrations capture Woo’s mischievous antics, from chasing dog’s tails, to plucking artificial cherries from the hat of an unsuspecting visitor….

This captivating picture book biography, written with elegance and straightforward simplicity, artfully captures Emily Carr’s passion for her craft, as well as her love for animals. End notes and an archival photograph add depth and historical details and provide a great introduction for young artists.”

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The Calgary Herald

“This true story follows the famous painter Emily Carr as she struggles to make a living from her art. In addition to her dogs, cats, a parrot, and rat, she gets a mischievous monkey and names [her] Woo. This touching story will appeal to adults who want to share art and Canadian history with young readers ages five and up.”
—Barbra Hesson

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Though most Canadians now know of the majestic mystery of Emily Carr’s artwork, her rise to fame was the slow one not unknown to many artists.  While she continued to feed her passion for painting, she made a living by selling ceramics, hooked rugs and renting rooms to feed herself and her menagerie of furry and feathery friends, which included a little monkey, Woo…. Dean Griffiths illustrates Woo with her inherent energy and impish smile, easily conveying her prankster nature…

In only 32 pages, Monica Kulling is able to share the tenuous nature of Emily Carr’s vocation and the artist’s determination to persevere for her passion with the emotional support of her companions.  Though it’s obvious that others looked upon her as “a strange bird“, including her sisters, Emily Carr’s depth of love for Woo is evident as a force that she could draw upon (no pun intended) and share with others….

A charming story of friendship and artistry, When Emily Carr Met Woo will provide the perfect book for introducing young readers to a great of Canadian art and her devotions.”

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Pickle Me This

“[A] story about the eccentric Canadian painter Carr and her messy, extraordinary life, a part of which was the monkey, Woo. There is a bit of peril when said monkey devours a tube of yellow paint, but (spoilers!) disasters are averted. This is a fun take on an unconventional and important life.”

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Smart Books for Smart Kids

“…It’s wonderful that children can learn about Emily Carr, a Canadian woman with such an interesting and eccentric life. When Emily Carr Met Woo opens the door to discussion about dealing with rejection. Emily’s story teaches readers about being resourceful too, and also that each of us should celebrate whatever it is that makes us unique.

Artist Dean Griffiths does a wonderful job depicting Emily Carr and Woo with his watercolor illustrations…He also does a great job interpreting her paintings.”

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Through the Looking Glass

“…In this charming picture book we see how one of Canada’s great painters shared her life with a naughty monkey who could not seem to keep out of trouble. Often creative people develop a special relationship with the animals who keep them company as they compose music, write, paint, or sculpt. Children will appreciate why Emily loved her little monkey friend so much, even though she was often a nuisance.

At the back of the book the reader will find more information about Emily Carr’s life.”

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