Elisabeth and the Box of Colours

Authored by Katherine Woodfine
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
Published by Barrington Stoke

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This is a short chapter book suitable for new independent readers, which is one of the Little Gems series from Barrington Stoke. It tells the story of Elisabeth, a little girl living in Paris, who becomes a famous painter.

At the start of the book Elisabeth’s family life is a happy one full of noise and laughter. Her father is an artist and Elisabeth loves spending her days painting alongside her father watching him paint and making her own pictures. One day all that changes when Elisabeth is sent away to school, where she joins a grey world in which her beloved, coloured crayons are not allowed and drawing is frowned upon. Through difficult times, Elisabeth finds ways to continue to draw and bring much needed colour into her life. But will she ever become the artist that she so desperately wants to become, or will sadness and greyness mean that her gift as an artist will be lost forever?

This story is inspired by the real-life story of Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun who was born in 1775 and became a famous portrait artist in France. In 1778 she was invited to paint Queen Marie Antoinette and soon became her favourite artist. At the end of the story is a short biopic of the artist with further information and this book could be used to look at biographies, famous female artists and portraits.

I would recommend this as part of a collection of early fluent readers in the classroom or the library or as part of a collection about famous female artists. The illustrations help to place the story in the time period and the text is easy to read. The author has written further books in the series using the same format including Sophie Takes to the Sky and Rose’s Dress of Dreams.