Just like Papa is a beautiful picture book by Nandita da Cunha , whimsically illustrated by Shreya Sen , that released this September. Little Gia is surrounded by art and colour. Paintings cover the walls of the home and her Dad’s studio. Dad affectionately tells his ‘Genius Gee’ that she will be an artist too. The little girl of course dreams of becoming a famous artist “just like papa” , each day as she finger paints and takes in the hues as her Dad paints. On her 7th birthday birthday, she gets her very own easel boards and colours and paints, but when she picks up her brush, her mind goes blank !
Does this means she can never be ‘just like Papa?’ Her Dad’s gentle attempts at cheering her with his own struggles with swimming, advice to just have fun with it and a reassurance that “atleast she tried” only serve to frustrate the determined child, who clearly had her hearts on it.
“She felt angry outside and small inside”
Then , Granny comes to visit and notices a painting missing. As Gia begins to tell her the story of the missing painting, she discovers her incredible talent ! In an heartwarming way, she discovers how she can be just like papa! The beautiful watercolor illustrations , Dad’s unusual look, touches of Goan attire and neighbourhoods add a cheerful appeal to this lovely picture book.
Simply and importantly, ‘Just Like Papa’ allows a gentle opening to dealing with a first brush with failure.
#Dealing with failure and frustration
…Why did Gia feel angry and small inside? How can she express her feelings?
…Does Genius Gee feel miserable when she can’t paint because her Dad calls her a “Genius”? Does labelling a child as a Genius or Gifted, set up pressure and expectations, even when done in jest / pride? If success means they are clever (‘You did it! You’re so clever!’), then how do children interpret lack of success ?
…Explore the growth mindset. Children with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance, and practice (“Math is hard, but if I keep trying, I can get better at it.”; I am not good at art YET”)
#Plans and Perseverance
After valuable suggestions to tackle the issue – thinking of new ideas, trying hard , enjoying the process – Dad kindly wraps up the art supplies and put it away quietly, when she could n’t bear to look at it and tells her not to worry.
…Think of all the approaches Papa suggested, what actions would help Gia use this feedback?
…How much should parents try to protect their kids from the pain of dashed expectations? What kind of conversations do we have on perseverance and grit when a child wants to give up or tries too hard!
…How do we change the questions we use to set goals , so they are open ended and allow them to approach the goal in multiple ways ? What do they want to achieve? Why do they want to be “just like papa”? Is it that painting is the only way to spend time with Papa , or as she discovers… there was another way to be a part of this incredible creative process…
Art is one incredible way to express the unrestrained energy of life through an extravagance of colours. Creativity is simply a way to demonstrate our passions and embrace life in our own unique way.
…Cole in Anne of Green Gables hurts his wrist and is unable to draw , but finds an outlet in sculpture. A child that loves art and cannot draw , can sometimes kindle his passion in photography or cooking. Always remember if Plan A doesn’t work , there are 25 more letters in the alphabet:)
# Art Exploration
The books has a lovely page showcasing her dad’s paintings with hands – Henna on hands, praying hands, hands on the piano , a mother and child
…Explore famous art with hands. Can you create your own art paintings with just hands? Hands with tattoo, hands that bless , hands that heal
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