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Review of When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt

bang_when sophie's feelings are really hurtWhen Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt
by Molly Bang; illus. by the author
Primary   Blue Sky/Scholastic   40 pp.
10/15   978-0-545-78831-1   $17.99   g

In Bang’s now-classic When Sophie Gets Angry…Really, Really Angry, Sophie coped with a volcanic episode of rage by communing with a favorite beech tree; both Sophie and the tree are back in a new book, this one about hurt feelings — although in truth it’s just as much about the creative process and how art functions. Sophie’s teacher gives the class an assignment: “Find a tree you like a LOT. Look at it carefully…Tomorrow you’re going to paint that tree from memory.” Sophie can’t wait: she loves to paint, and she loves her tree. But her attempt at a realistic depiction doesn’t capture what she wants to express, so she changes the gray of the trunk to a vibrant blue; makes the sky orange; outlines the branches in yellow (“as if it’s shining”). When a classmate ridicules her painting because the colors are “wrong,” Sophie is hurt and embarrassed. But smart Ms. Mulry comes to the rescue, helping Sophie and the whole class to understand how her painting works. Bang’s own illustrations, in glowing colors with thick outlines, take readers step-by-step through the artistic process, constantly conveying emotion. A double-page spread of Sophie in despair uses perspective to show how distant Sophie feels from her painting; in contrast, the next double-page spread shows Ms. Mulry’s arms encircling Sophie in warmth and comfort. But perhaps Bang’s biggest accomplishment is managing to imbue her own realistic depiction of the beech tree with the same essence as Sophie’s purely emotional one.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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