My parents were artists, my father a poet and visual artist, my mother a lover of the tiniest hidden beauties in the world. This partly explains my devotion to the arts – namely music, drawing, and coloring. From the time I was a young child, there was nothing I enjoyed more than drawing or coloring while listening to music. It was an escape for me, a child who felt things deeply. As an introverted adult, this love affair continues on, even more so now, as a busy full-time single parent and nearing “vet-status” teacher.

My daughter, Charlotte, was born in 2013. The early days of motherhood proved hard…hard to wash my hair, let alone connect to my old past time of sketching and coloring. I recall vividly feeling completely lost and unrecognizable to myself. Every minute of those first days, alone with my newborn, was focused on getting through it all. What made it infinitely easier was when I finally decided to connect back to the things that brought me comfort – music and visual art.

While breastfeeding, I would play my favorite bands, albums and listen to an exhausting amount of NPR. When Charlotte would sleep, I would hurry to wash clothes, organize all her small items and I began to squeeze in doodling again. Charlotte and I were staying with my oldest sister, Johanna and her husband, Chris. They took us in for the duration of our maternity leave – a kindness I will never forget. During this time, I found the work of another Johanna…Johanna Basford.

Ms. Basford’s work truly helped me connect back to myself and form new connections to who I was aiming to be – a grounded, strong, yet tender new mommy. I ordered her coloring book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book. It was a lovely gift to myself and ultimately to Charlotte. The act of engaging in the tinting of Basford’s hard-drawn imagination were therapeutic. So, I have much gratitude for this artist’s work.

As the years have flown by, my baby Charlotte is now a “big girl” – nearly five! We have discovered art and expressions of art together. I am happy to report she loves to draw, paint and COLOR! In late fall, we discovered together a new masterpiece by Johanna Basford, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly.

I presented this book to Charlotte one night after dinner. We usually do some activity together before bedtime and this felt like the perfect project to start.

Like me, Charlotte could not wait to “make the pictures colorful”. To her immediate surprise, upon opening this book, the trademark, intricate and precise illustrations of Basford, were woven around text! This is no ordinary coloring book…not for a nearly forty-year-old woman like myself or for a child with a deep appreciation for the trending art of adult coloring.

And so, Charlotte and I embarked on reading a few pages a night and coloring away. The story that unfolds features a little girl named Ivy who after chasing her inky butterfly happens upon a magic door. We followed Ivy through this door into the land of Enchantia. We voyaged along with her, night after night, on her quest to find her inky butterfly friend, meeting the most charming characters.

Have we finished the book? Not yet. Are the pages perfectly colored? Nope. Is that the point of this project? No way! We come back to this book, this project, for comfort and connection…like I did many moons ago. We color, read, talk about the story and sometimes we are just quiet as we work on little parts of the illustrations.

So, whether you are looking for a fantastical story to capture your imagination or you are seeking connection back to yourself – this is your best bet, at least until Johanna Basford gifts us another gem.

About Johanna Basford

Johanna Basford is a Scottish illustrator. Her illustrations are hand-drawn, predominantly in black and white, with pencils and pens. She graduated in 2005 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee with a degree in Printed Textiles and a portfolio stuffed with monochrome silkscreen prints and drawings. Basford’s works can be found in products such as coloring books, wallpaper, beer labels, and even tattoos. She is known to be a pioneer of the adult coloring book trend.

About Claire Grillo

Claire Grillo is a Kindergarten Lead Teacher at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA. She has been teaching for 18 years, sixteen of those years were spent teaching in public schools. She holds a BS from Temple University and an M.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also a guest contributor on Book Club Babble.

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2 Responses

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    Jordan Levin

    So wonderful to read! Reminds me of doing art with my mom- also an artist! Can’t wait to keep reading Claire’s reviews!


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