Where Are You, Agnes?

Where Are You, Agnes?

Written by: McWatt, Tessa
Illustrated by: Celej, Zuzanna
ages 4 to 8 / grades K to 3

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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
author's note
art history

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7
Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

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
author's note
art history

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7
Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — May 1, 2020
Specifications 44 pages | 10.25 in x 8.625 in
Written By

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.

Illustrated by

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.

Written By

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.

Illustrated by

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.

Audience ages 4 to 8 / grades K to 3
Reading Levels Fountas & Pinnel Text Level O
Guided Reading O
Key Text Features author's note; art history
Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7

Commended, Quill & Quire Best Books of the Year Honourable Mention, 2020

Commended, Kirkus Best Picture Books of the Year, 2020

… gorgeously written … The philosophical narrative and nature-filled illustrations combine to create a contemplative work that celebrates an underappreciated woman artist. STARRED REVIEW

” —Shelf Awareness

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. STARRED REVIEW

” —Kirkus Reviews

[A]n exceptional picture book.

” —CM Review of Materials

Opening this book is akin to donning a pair of magic glasses to see the world the way Martin may have. STARRED REVIEW

” —Quill & Quire

[A] whimsical picture book … McWatt brilliantly explores the unique vision Martin had of the world when she was a child, a world in which she often gets lost.

” —Globe and Mail