Drawing with Whitman

Sourland Mountain Series Book 1

Children - Grade 4th-6th
146 Pages
Reviewed on 02/25/2020
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Author Biography

Before becoming an award-winning author, Kristin McGlothlin was the Assistant Curator of Education at the Norton Museum of Art, where she designed and managed the Norton’s art and music programs. She has a B.A. in Art History and a B.A. and M.A. in English. Her M.A. thesis was on the author/illustrator Edward Gorey. McGlothlin wrote and created the artwork for the children’s picture book Andy’s Snowball Story about the contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy. Her poem “California T-Shirt” was published in the literary magazine Coastlines and “Roman Ruins in a Modern City” won a haiku contest and was read on Travel with Rick Steves. McGlothlin’s short story The Red Door was one of 23 finalists among more than 400 entries in the Florida Weekly 2018 Writing Challenge. Drawing with Whitman, the winner of the 2019 Moonbeam Silver Medal for Pre-Teen Fiction, is her debut middle-grade novel. It is the first book in a four-book series titled Sourland Mountain Series. A writer since she was thirteen, only now, like a million years later, has she settled upon it as her career. She lives in Jupiter, Florida. Contact me at kristinmcglothlinauthor@gmail.com.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Drawing with Whitman by Kristin McGlothlin is a coming of age children's story, and book one in the Sourland Mountain Series. Catalynd “Cat” Jewett Hamilton has her world turned upside down when a car accident forces her (and two broken, casted legs) into a wheelchair, and sends her mother spiraling into depression. As one person in their life leaves the property, another moves onto it—artist Benton Whitman, a descendant of literary great Walt Whitman. Using art as therapy, Cat works hard to pull together the demands of school and home and weave the frayed threads of the family back together once more.

Drawing with Whitman is a beautifully written, engrossing, and completely relevant novel that just hits the nail on the head in so many different ways. As a parent to a child who struggles with mental health issues, I found Kristin McGlothin's character Cat and the circumstances she's put into resonated a bit too closely. Like many children today, Cat has the weight of the world on her shoulders as well as the casts that burden her legs, and she becomes the ties that bind at an age when she really should not have to. The character of Benton is exceptional, as is the portrayal of Cat's fragile mother. For all the simplicity of the writing that a book aimed at middle-graders must have, the prose is excellent and all of the characters well developed. As a coming of age story, I believe this is a book that will leave a long-lasting impression. I look forward to reading about Cat's growth as the series progresses.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Cat loves to play football with her older brother, Buddy. She insists she’s going to play quarterback in this year’s family football game during Thanksgiving. But fate takes a nasty turn when she and her mother are in a car accident. Cat is seriously injured from the waist down and must wear leg casts and use a wheelchair for months. Her mother wasn’t physically injured, but psychologically? Well, that’s another matter. Cat’s mother was driving and she feels guilt over Cat’s injuries. Then a new tenant, Benton Whitman, moves into the renovated barn. He’s an artist, a poet of pictures like his ancestor Walt Whitman was a poet of words. Cat is enthralled with the artist’s work and starts learning from him. It helps with her recovery, but what about her mother’s? Psychological stress after a harrowing experience, PTSD, or depression is very debilitating, not only to the person suffering the condition but to those who love that person. Cat wants to help, but she doesn’t know how.

Kristin McGlothlin’s middle-grade novel, Drawing with Whitman: Sourland Mountain Series Book 1, is an interesting look at some difficult issues, specifically PTSD and depression. The main character, Cat, has some difficult issues confronting her, more than her physical injuries. This comes across clearly as the plot develops and the issues compound themselves. Although the story is written in the third person, it almost reads like a personal journal as the story traces the main character Cat's point of view throughout. The dialogue is well orchestrated and believable. Young readers will certainly be able to relate to young Cat, feeling her pain and frustration. Unable to help and struggling to understand her mother, Cat must face her own physical challenges as her legs heal. Faced with so many obstacles, Cat is forced to grow up, attaining a maturity beyond her years. With her brother off to college, Cat must assert herself as the bond that keeps the family functioning in both health and happiness. Through art, Cat finds a means to tackle life’s more difficult problems. The author has presented the story in a very straightforward way, using simple language and sentence structure and presenting the issues head-on in an approach that will attract young middle-grade readers. A powerful story told with compassion and an understanding of the inner depth of an artist.

Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer)

In Drawing with Whitman by Kristin McGlothlin, main character Catalynd feels as though her entire life has changed: her brother Buddy has moved away to college, the barn in which she used to play has been renovated and rented out, and, biggest of all, after a major car accident, she is left in a wheelchair, both her legs broken, and her mother slips into a depression. Cat is worried about her mother, but when she tries to talk with her family members about it, they tell her it's nothing. However, she finds that their new tenant, Benton Whitman, who is an artist, is very nice, and she begins to take art lessons with him. But the question still remains: what can she do to help her mother?

With relatable problems and realistic characters, Drawing with Whitman by Kristin McGlothlin is a really enjoyable read. Readers will find that they can relate to problems faced within this book, such as depression, anxiety, and injuries, as well as worry about change. The book focuses a lot on art, introducing the reader to art terminology they may not know and instilling a greater appreciation for art, particularly paintings. I liked that there were pictures of the paintings referenced throughout the story at the back of the book so that readers can understand what the characters within the book were talking about. The story is very well written, with lots of descriptions and captivating, intense scenes, particularly the one in which the car crashes. I would definitely recommend this book.