About this book
Where Are You, Agnes?
Tessa McWatt • Zuzanna Celej
This stunning picture-book imagining of artist Agnes Martin’s childhood gives readers a glimpse into the life and work of one of the most esteemed abstract painters of the twentieth century.
Agnes Martin was born on the Canadian prairies in the early twentieth century. In this imagining of her childhood from acclaimed author Tessa McWatt, Agnes spends her days surrounded by wheat fields, where her grandfather encourages her to draw what she sees and feels around her: the straight horizon, the feeling of the sun, the movement of birds’ wings and the shapes she sees in the wheat.
One day, Agnes’s family moves to a house in a big city. The straight horizon and wheat fields are gone, but Agnes continues to draw what she sees and feels around her. No one except her grandfather understands what she is trying to capture — not her mother, who asks, “Where are you, Agnes?” when she sees her daughter engrossed in her drawing; nor her siblings, who think her art is ugly. Still, Agnes keeps trying to capture what she sees inside her mind.
Agnes Martin grew up to become a famous abstract expressionist artist. Tessa McWatt has written a beautiful story of Agnes’s childhood and how it might have shaped her adult work. Zuzanna Celej’s watercolors adeptly capture Agnes’s world, including hints of the grid paintings that she was later known for, against the backdrop of prairie and city landscapes.
Includes an author’s note with more information about Agnes Martin’s life and the inspiration behind this story.
Key Text Features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.
About the Creators
Tessa McWatt is an acclaimed author whose work includes novels for adults and young people. Her fiction has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the City of Toronto Book Awards and the OCM Bocas Prize. Most recently, she published the novel Higher Ed and co-edited Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada with Rabindranath Maharj and Dionne Brand. She is the author of the forthcoming Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, an analysis of the race debate from a personal perspective. She is also a librettist and professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Where Are You, Agnes? is her first picture book.
Zuzanna Celej is an award-winning children’s book illustrator as well as an artist and painter. She has illustrated more than fifty children’s books, including The Map of Good Memories by Fran Nuño, which won the New York City Big Book Award, The Lighthouse of Souls by Ariel Andrés Almada, The Old Oak Legacy by J. L. Badal, Tania Val de Lumbre by Maria Parr, El secreto de Abuelo Oso by Pedro Mañas and Inside My Imagination by Marta Arteaga, which won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best Illustrator and the Living Now Book Award for a children’s picture book. Originally from Poland, Zuzanna now lives in Barcelona.
Awards and Praise
Praise for author Tessa McWatt and illustrator Zuzanna Celej for Where Are You, Agnes?:
“Opening this book is akin to donning a pair of magic glasses to see the world the way Martin may have.” — Quill & Quire, starred review
“The language is simple and evocative…[and] the illustrations are sublime. …[A]rt that is both soft, emanating visual possibility, and ordered—much like the minimalist work of Martin herself.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[A]n exceptional picture book.” — CM Reviews
“[A] deeply contemplative, thoughtfully-executed story.” — Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Praise for Tessa McWatt and Vital Signs:
“She has a stirring ability to echo the pull of tides and the tremors of the earth within the human body.” — The Globe and Mail
Praise for Tessa McWatt and Higher Ed:
“A book that contains multitudes, Higher Ed is less about how we are different than the ways in which we are the same. Sly, brainy, and razor-sharp, McWatt’s writing is unmissable.” — Grace O’Connell, author of Magnified World
“[M]agnetic … . Kind to her characters, but never blind to their iffy choices or restrictive circumstances, McWatt gradually grants the members of this loosely interrelated tribe some respite. Her generous vision suggests that people might not get exactly what they desire, but, since the world’s a huge, complicated place, it may provide them with something else, something ultimately beneficial.” — Maclean’s
Praise for author Fran Nuño and illustrator Zuzanna Celej for The Map of Good Memories:
“A moving and timeless story that is sure to spark discussions at home and in the classroom; for first purchase.” — School Library Journal
Praise for author Ariel Andres Almada and illustrator Zuzanna Celej for The Lighthouse of Souls:
“The images, done in mothlike colors, pale washes of green and brown, are gentle and slightly mysterious, reflecting the shimmer of magical realism that overlays the text … it is a rather beautiful, quiet tale and smells of the salt sea.” — Kirkus Reviews