(Candlewick Press, 2003)
I love so many picture books, but I can say with confidence that The Dot by Peter Reynolds is solidly on my all-time top ten list. It’s a wonderful book to read at the beginning of a new school year.
For Vashti, art is a miserable subject. She faces a project with an I can’t mindset. By the end of the period, her paper remains blank. What’s the point? Whatever she does, it won’t be any good. Her teacher tries to encourage Vashti. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” A mark, huh? Fine. Vashti grabs a marker and angrily makes a single jab. A dot.
Her teacher requires nothing more, keeping her cool and saying, “Now sign it.” This puzzles young Vashti, but it’s a small price for her Get out of Jail Free card. The following week, the student is startled to return to class and see her paper in a gold frame, prominently displayed on the wall behind the teacher’s desk. Vashti knows she can do better and sets off on a surprising art journey.
We all have subjects or tasks that we greet with that I can’t attitude. For some, it’s art, but for others it may be writing or basketball or math. It may be cleaning out a closet, baking a decent pie or taming the weeds in the front garden. The Dot offers all of us new hope. Start small, celebrate that first step, continue on. Do things your own way. Embrace the imperfections. You may even inspire others. That is certainly what Vashti and Peter Reynolds have done.
When a roomful of grade seven students spontaneously applauds at the end of the story, you know the book is pure magic. It is worth reading as school starts and another read the next time you doubt yourself. The Dot is an instant pick-me-up. Yes, everything will be okay.