Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Paint Box

The Paint Box

Maxine Trottier
Illustrator:  Stella East 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2004   ISBN: 1550418084

Long ago, girls were not allowed to do as they pleased. They could not wander around freely the way boys could do. For this reason, Marietta’s father, who loved her dearly and who wanted her by his side at all times, had his daughter dress up as a boy. Disguised in this way, Marietta was able to travel around Venice with her father, and she was also able to share his passion for painting and art.

One day a sea captain asked Marietta’s father to paint his portrait. Marietta befriended Piero, the captain’s cabin boy. Piero was a slave who has been sold by his parents “so that his brothers and sisters would have bread to eat.” Marietta and Piero soon became fast friends. Both loved to draw and paint, and both were limited by the conventions of their times. Marietta could not walk around unless she was disguised, and Piero was forced to do what his master wished.

For a time, the young girl and boy enjoyed spending time together, exploring Venice, and sharing their hopes and dreams. However, both knew that their friendship could not last long. When the captain’s portrait was complete, he would sail away, taking Piero with him.

Inspired by a painting that some believe was painted by Marietta, the daughter of the famous artist Tintoretto, this memorable story takes readers back to a time when children were often not free to be who they wanted to be. Children will be intrigued to see how the two main characters in the story deal with the sorrows in their lives, and how, despite their very different backgrounds, their love of art unites them.