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Alice the Artist

by Martin Waddell
pictures by Jonathan Langley

My job as a writer is not to tell children what to think or do about a given situation,

but to encourage them to think for themselves. -Martin Waddell (1999)

            Alice the Artist tells the tale of Alice, an artist whose friends challenge her vision of painting. 

We first meet Alice in her room, a neutral setting where Alice has an idea for a picture.  She is satisfied with the picture after painting it, and she declares, "I like it!"

Her friends, however, suggest additions to correct perceived omissions.  Alice complies by adding an elephant (Alfred's suggestion); an umbrella (suggested by Amanda); a bicycle (suggested by Betty) and so on.  The last addition comes from Alice's friend Terry, who suggests, "Put in my tiger!" on the grounds that the picture will be more exciting. 

            The tiger, however, creates havoc, chasing away Alice's friends and eating Alice's picture after declaring it "rotten."

            Alice has a new idea.  "I'm doing it my own way, this time!"  She is satisfied with having put her own inspiration on the canvas.  The new painting ends where trouble began for the first painting:  "'I like it!' declares Alice."  Alice learns to follow her own muse when it comes to painting her vision.  Waddell meets his goal of encouraging children to think for themselves.

            Award-winning author Martin Waddell has written more than one hundred books for children (Waddell 1999).  He has won many awards, including the Smarties prize and The Kate Greenaway Medal (both for Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?) and, in 2004, The Hans Christian Andersen Award for writing.  The Hans Christian Andersen Award is given to both an author and an illustrator whose life work constitutes an enduring contribution to the field of children's literature.

            Jonathan Langley's colorful, uncluttered drawings add hilarity to the proceedings.  As reviewer McCutcheon (1988) points out: "Especially attentive children will notice that Alice's window will clue them in to the next zany addition to come, making Alice the Artist all the more fun."  These are delightful hints!

Langley's drawings catch the frenzy as Alice's friends hasten to flee from the tiger, while Alice's cat arches its back from its perch atop Alice's canvas.  Even the Wagnerian-like bust, toppled to the floor, displays dismay in the scene.  On each page, two playful mice frolic at the top of the page. 

Alice the Artist is a funny tale that preschoolers and beginning readers will both enjoy.  As a read-aloud, a first reading might involve just the story line; a second reading, the hints glimpsed through the window; and a third reading, finding the mice.



Waddell, Martin. 1999. Writer to reader. The ALAN Review 29 (3):21-2.

McCutcheon, Lauren. 1988. Review of Alice the artist by Martin Waddell. School Library Journal 35 (1): 175



Waddell, Martin. 1988. Alice the Artist. Pictures by Jonathan Langley. New York: Dutton; London: Methuen Children's Books.          ISBN 0-525-44385-1

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