Miss Edmonia’s Class of Wildfires

Paw Prints. (The Museum Lives in Me). Mar. 2024. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781223186849.
Gr 1-4–The first in a series that “explores concepts of self-discovery, empowerment, and the power of art” through visits to various museums, this book features an enthusiastic teacher/tour guide whose name seems to reference Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis, a sculptor of African and Native American heritage, though no mention is made of this in the text. Here, she brings her class on a field trip to an art museum, reminding them of descriptive character traits using the word “wildfire” as an anagram (Wise, Intelligent, Lovable, etc.). The galleries capture each student’s attention, even those who discuss how they would rather be doing just about anything other than looking at art. Eventually, each finds a piece of art that inspires them: for Kara-Clementine, who is Black, it is a large portrait of a woman, and for Attilo, who seems to be Latinx, it is an encompassing modern light installation, to which he responds, “Is this art too?” as he realizes it’s like being inside of a video game. Santoya’s vividly colored illustrations accurately display the marvels of the museum and depict a diverse cast of characters. They cannot rescue the muddled rhyme scheme and convoluted explanation of how every child is expected to find a character trait in a piece of art. For a more immersive art experience, check out Luisa Vera’s excellent 2023 book Let’s Go to the Museum—a Modern Art Adventure Maze.
VERDICT This well-intentioned book promises so much but falters on the delivery.

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