In Marianne Bickett’s accomplished debut, narrator and fifth-grader Kala Milerano and her friends experience journeys beyond their imagination when their “unconventional” art teacher, Ms. Fitt, shows them the wonders of her magical art cart.
The cart is a curious “contraption” with a miniature tree growing on its top, a bumper sticker that modifies its message every few minutes, and the astounding ability to travel through time. During school field trips, the cart creates an enchanted whirlwind that envelops Ms. Fitt and her fifth-graders and transports them to a peaceful meadow. While there, the students sketch and develop their powers of observation.
There, Kala and her friends meet a boy their age named Leonardo. He too carries a sketchpad, and the group admires his distinct artistry. Could this “lovely stranger” be the Leonardo da Vinci about whom they are learning in Ms. Fitt’s class?
On Kala’s way home from school one day, Leonardo pops into her pathway. He tells Kala that he’s now 12 and must get to Florence, Italy, to study with famed artist Andre del Verrocchio. Somehow, Leonardo has slipped into the future, and Kala must return him to the 15th century before he misses his opportunity to become one of history’s most famous artists and scientists.
Believing in discovery and trusting one’s “inner wisdom” is the theme of this top-notch adventure tale. Indeed, it’s what Kala and friends rely upon as they travel back in time to the Renaissance with Ms. Fitt’s cart and test their courage.
Bickett is a master at creating intrigue and foreshadowing the profundity of future events. One quibble, however: Bickett’s excellent prose sometimes carries an adult tone that is jarring in a children’s novel. It’s unlikely, for example, that a ten-year-old would use words like “nebulous,” “impudent,” “cacophony,” and “lithe.”
Nonetheless, the story prevails and history comes to life, ensuring success for the author’s anticipated “Art a la Cart” trilogy.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.