When Sophie’s Feelings are Really, Really Hurt
First published in 2015
About the story
After I finished When Sophie Gets Angry, I had no thought of a sequel. I was happy with Sophie, but I didn’t want to make any more Sophie books. I wanted only to make books about science, and so I kept working with Penny Chisholm on our books in the Sunlight Series.
But then my editor, Bonnie Verburg, had an idea.
“How about having Sophie paint a picture of her tree,” she suggested, “but she paints the tree blue because she loves it and it makes her happy, and then she paints the sky orange, but her teacher doesn’t like her picture at all.” Bonnie wasn’t sure how to resolve the situation, but that was the setup.
I put it off for a year or two and kept working on the Sunlight books. But the situation was too familiar to me to let it go.
One of the most frequent difficulties for children in school is that they are misunderstood and reprimanded just when they are trying hard to accomplish a task. This happens so frequently in art class that by about the third or fourth grade, children ‘know’ which (very few) students in their class are the ‘artists’, and ‘know’ that all the others are not. I’ve taught art as a volunteer in both elementary and high school, and it’s been consistently clear that every child can express her/himself visually in ways that affect others emotionally and aesthetically, and can paint and draw far beyond what they had originally expected of themselves. But it takes teacher encouragement to experiment and keep trying, and her – or his - support to look, analyze and appreciate the work of both known artists and other students, and then to incorporate others’ ideas in one’s own work.
This is the approach I wanted to show in When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt.
So I worked on the new Sophie story. Since four members of my family are teachers who work very hard to support and understand their students, I could not make the teacher the one who misunderstood Sophie’s intention for her picture. So I made the confused critic be her friend, Alex, and I made the teacher be the person who does understand and encourage her.
I hope the story gives children and teachers a way to look at, feel, talk about and MAKE pictures that enable them to realize that they, too, are artists. It gives a beginning vocabulary for discussing visual art and ways of seeing not only the content - the tree and the animals in the tree – but also some elements of painting, for example: color and its emotional effects, position of figures on the page, and space.
Hopefully the story also reminds teachers and students that we can deal with differences in ways that are supportive of Everybody.
copyright 2016 by Molly Bang