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Blood Water Paint
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blood Water Paint, by first-time novelist Joy McCullough, is a riveting story based on a real historical incident in Rome during the 1600s, in which a teen (later a renowned artist) pressed charges against her rapist. Protagonist Artemisia Gentileschi, 17 at the time of the story, narrates her story and feelings in verse, interrupted occasionally by prose flashbacks in which Artemisia's mother, long dead, arms her against a bad world by telling her the lurid but empowering Bible stories of Judith and Susanna. The novel includes sexual and violent content, usually conveyed more by suggestion than by explicit description, but there are also strong messages of courage, self-respect, overcoming obstacles, and doing what's right.
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What's the story?
As the events of BLOOD WATER PAINT unfold in verse, it's Rome in 1610, and motherless 17-year-old Artemisia Gentileschi does a lot of disgusting work for her talentless artist father, from scraping boiled rabbit skins to exposing assorted body parts when he needs a female model. Unbeknownst to his customers, she also does most of the skilled work on his paintings. Then one day one of her father's colleagues rapes her in her own house, and she has to decide whether to keep silent or seek justice. Guiding her thoughts are the biblical heroines Judith and Susanna, whose tales are retold by Artemisia's late mother in flashback.
Is it any good?
This riveting story of 17th-century Rome spins, mostly in verse, a powerful tale of a young girl who, inspired by biblical heroines, stands up against her male abusers. In Blood Water Paint, first-time novelist Joy McCullough reveals a strong, complex, appealing character in Artemisia, whose sense of rightness won't allow her to meekly accept victimhood.
if Tuzia cannot remove the stain
if my father cannot keep monsters from my home
if my brothers will not come when I scream
then I will do it for
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about art. When you see a painting, do you wonder about the artist and what he or she was thinking, or do you just like to look at the picture? If you look at Artemisia Gentileschi's work now, do you see more in it after having read Blood Water Paint?
How would you feel if something terrible happened to you and your family didn't want to help you? What would you do?
Have you studied the history and art of Rome? Is there a particular artist or era you like best?
- Author: Joy McCullough
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton
- Publication date: March 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love books about history and stories with strong female heroes
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.