Review by Kaitlyn Chan
Candlewick Press, September 2020
96 pages, Paperback, $12.99 CAD, 9781536209310
Ages 4 – 8 years
This book is your gallery. Fill the empty frames with your art. Some frames have “ishful” ideas to inspire you, some have squiggles for you to finish any way you’d like, and some have suggestions to try. Let your creativity flow…
Make Your Mark Gallery: A Coloring Book-ish by acclaimed author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds encourages creativity in children. This book is full of empty or near-empty frames for children to complete with their own artwork. On the back of each page is a space for the artist to write their name, the date, and the title of their artwork. Make Your Mark Gallery has minimal interference from the author to encourage readers to come up with their own ideas and forget any rules or structures that they may associate with making art in other environments such as school, art lessons, or otherwise.
Reynolds includes various sizes, shapes, and styles of frames for the reader to fill—or maybe work around—with their artwork. Some examples include the wall of a brick building, a dinner plate, and a frame of flowers. All artwork provided by Reynolds is done in black and white, so readers can also express themselves when choosing which colours they want to use on each page. Some of the pages will have a scribble on them already or a short prompt ending with “-ish” (e.g. bird-ish) that the reader can use as inspiration or completely ignore. The beauty of art is that it is completely your own to create, and Reynolds puts absolutely no limits to creativity in his book.
As someone who grew up as a perfectionist, I see an immense benefit to the simplicity of this colouring book. Whoever picks up this book is free to fill it as they will; there are no expectations to meet or wild prompts to fulfill with detailed drawings. Reynolds ends words with “-ish” to remind us that artwork is not an exact science: there is no such thing as a perfect piece of art and that is absolutely okay! I know that this underlying message would have been beneficial for me as a child. It reminds perfectionists young and old that art is not about accuracy, and your value does not come from the preciseness—or even the inventiveness—of the works you produce but from within.
At the end of this book, there is one final surprise from Reynolds that I will leave for you to discover. However, I will say that the lesson it teaches us is that all art is worthy of being made and shared. Reynolds has crafted a book that, while appearing to be made for children on the outside, can be enjoyable for all ages. There are some important lessons to learn hidden within the pages of this deceivingly straightforward book. So, throw away all inhibitions and make your mark!
Kaitlyn Chan is a current student at UBC, studying English Literature and Creative Writing. Fulfilling the typical stereotypes of English majors, Kaitlyn enjoys reading, writing, and tea. She spends her free time training for triathlons, singing songs in her bedroom, and trying not to buy more books.