Emily's Blue Period

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Emily's Blue Period Book Poster Image
Sensitive story of using art to process difficult emotions.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to Picasso, cubism, and collage and demonstration of using art to express ideas and emotions.

Positive Messages

A loving message about home and family in times of change. Sadness, anger, and uncertainty are normal feelings that ease in their own time. It's important to respect and accept other people's feelings and not try to push uncomfortable feelings away. Through sadness, we can realize important truths about happiness and love. Creative projects can be very helpful in sorting out messy emotions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Emily loves both her parents, who want her to feel at home and loved. Her mother is patient and understanding (her father seems less emotionally engaged). Emily is observant and empathetic, particularly in a scene with her brother near the end of the story. She's open about how she feels and how it's affecting her daily life. Her attentive, patient mother provides loving concern and support. Emily's father is also patient when his son acts out in a store, giving him time and space to calm down, but ultimately carries his son out in frustration. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Emily's Blue Period, by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown (Mummy Cat), is about a child who is saddened by her parents' separation and uses art to sort out her complicated emotions. It's a frank portrayal of family breakups: Each member of the family is having a difficult time adjusting. The underlying sadness is lightened with a touch of humor and made less oppressive by Emily's thoughtful perspective. Ultimately, it's a hopeful and helpful book that could help any child working through unhappy circumstances. 

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What's the story?

Emily, an aspiring artist, sees a connection between Pablo Picasso's work and her own life, which is all mixed up. Her dad has moved to a new home, where everything seems to be cube-shaped. Her brother is acting up, and she feels sad. Emily decides she's in a blue period, just like Picasso. She's excited to try a new project -- a collage of her house -- but she's not sure what to do: Emily has two houses now, and she has to decide which one is home to do her project.

Is it any good?

This thoughtful book doesn't sugarcoat things: Life can be sad and messy, and there's no easy fix. But blue periods don't last forever, and they can help you find your way back to sunshine. For families going through separation, divorce, or other difficult transitions, EMILY'S BLUE PERIOD is an especially compassionate and helpful book. 

Muted pencil-and-watercolor illustrations by Lisa Brown capture the meditative mood. Cathleen Daly's forthright text is worked in and around the artwork, with simply drawn circles transforming dialogue into speech bubbles. The story is divided into five themed, fast-moving chapters, making it an ideal crossover book for kids moving from picture books to chapter books. It's a wonderful book to read together -- be sure to have some art supplies ready at hand to make your own collage afterward.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Emily expresses herself through art. How do you feel when you create artwork when you're unhappy? 

  • How do the illustrations and the words work together in this book? (The chapter titles are a good starting point.)

  • Try creating a collage project or some "blue period" artwork. What idea are you trying to express?

Book details

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