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.
Awards and Praise
[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.
- Commended Kirkus Best Picture Books of the Year, 2020
- Commended Quill & Quire Best Books of the Year Honourable Mention, 2020