Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: Picture of Grace by Josh Armstrong

by Josh Armstrong
Illustrated by Taylor Bills
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 3+

Six-year-old Grace aspires to be an artist like her beloved grandfather Walt. Every week, she goes to his house and watches with great joy as he paints. Of course, not everyone appreciates Grandpa Walt's artwork. But as Walt tells Grace, "Some people appreciate the hard work while others just want the painting to be finished. But you can't be distracted by either group."

When tragedy strikes, Grace takes it upon herself to honor Grandpa Walt in a special way. Through her act of love and kindness, Grace's family discovers an amazing secret about Walt's final, unfinished masterpiece.


There's a lot of love in this book--the illustrations, writing, even the message itself had a sense of gentleness, time and care. The moment I opened the first page, my kids hung over my shoulders, begging to read along.

Grace is a cute little girl who has a wonderful relationship with her grandfather. It was heart warming to see and read about her watching him paint. The strong family relationships are obvious in this story and alone help to give a comforting atmosphere. Grace acts just as a little girl should and was quickly liked by both of my children.

The author does a great job of creating a very quiet moment when tragedy strikes--the drop in mood is evident. This is a tough and serious subject for children, and in general, it's handled carefully and well. However, my kids weren't exactly sure what had happened (why Grace was so sad) and had to ask what was meant. I'll assume the author wants the parents to read this with their kids, and by letting the parents explain the sudden reason behind the mood swing, the author offers a great way for kids and parents to discuss a difficult subject.

The story flows well and kept my childrens' interest until the very last page. They especially enjoyed the illustrations and went back several times just to look at those. There were a few things that were over my kids' heads (why the art director was so impatient, and why Grace's changes on the painting were not happily seen), but in general they enjoyed the story.

Summed up, this is a lovely tale which handles the difficult subject of a death in the family with the care of velvet gloves. It opens up discussions between parents/grandparents and kids, while offering hope at the end. I'm sure there's many children 3+ who would enjoy having this story read to them.

And here they are. . .
Illustrator: TAYLOR BILLS!!!

Josh Armstrong published his first illustrated children’s book, Picture of Grace, in February. He has
also contributed to several newspapers in North Carolina, where he lives with wife Chelsea. For more information, visit

Taylor Bills is a freelance illustrator from Murfreesboro, TN, where he has developed his brand of illustration and concept art for a variety of entertainment media for more than 20 years. His credits include illustrating the children’s books Tear Soup and Someone Came Before You. For more information, visit (easy link to the Amazon page)

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