Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Lindsey McDivitt
Illustrator:  Eileen Ryan Ewen 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018   ISBN: 978-1585364053

When Gwen was very small she got a debilitating disease that left her with a foot that dragged, slurred speech, and weak hands. At that time, in the early 1900’s, children with disabilities usually stayed at home, but Gwen’s mother pushed her daughter to live a full life and so Gwen went to school. Gwen’s classmates were often unkind and only seemed to notice “the things that made her different.”

Gwen’s mother was her champion and she encouraged Gwen to use her hands to draw and sketch. Over time the girl’s hands grew stronger and she did well in school, but she still had a hard time making friends. Thankfully Nature was always there for Gwen, and out among the trees, plants, and wild animals Gwen felt whole.

When she was twelve Gwen’s family moved near to the city of Detroit in Michigan. Now that her hands were “strong and sure” Gwen began to paint, and she also took mechanical drawing classes, which was not something many girls did. They did not go to shop class either, but Gwen did that as well.

When she got to art school Gwen learned how to make linoleum prints and it became clear that starting a business that would allow her to be an artist was what Gwen should do. Once again Gwen set out to do something few women did and she did very well making vases and other decorations out of copper and brass. Then WWII broke out and Gwen’s metal supply dried up. Undaunted, Gwen signed up to work in a Ford Motor Company factory where bombers were being built.

Needing a creative outlet, Gwen created her own stationary company. She printed cards and books and then she decided to make another change in her life.

This wonderful picture book tells the story of a singular woman who, despite physical challenges, pursued a life in art that made her happy. She used her art to remind people that nature was a gift, and that it was something that we should all work to protect and cherish.

At the back of the book the author offers readers further information about Gwen Frostic’s life. There is also a craft project that young readers might like to try.