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Growing With the Grain

Giovanni Santi and Raphael Sanzio by Chloe Feldman Emison

What do you get when you combine two homeschooled daughters with an art professor mother? You get a book like no other about 60 brilliant families through history. Illustrated by 14-year old Chloe Emison, this hardcover is an encyclopedia of parents and children who made their mark on the world



Okay, this one threw me for a loop. Growing With the Grain is about as far from Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket as language will allow. It has no plot and at least 125 characters from Scipio Africanus in 236 BC to modern day Benazir Bhutto. And yet this is a book for children, or at least, for some children, and it was illustrated by 14-year old Chloe Emison of Lee, NH who spent two years sketching portraits to accompany more than 60 short biographies of famous world figures written by her mother Patricia Emison.

Chloe and Patricia Emison / SeacoastNH.comIn a world where commercial books are designed to be instantly attractive and understanbable, Growing With the Grain refuses to play along. I spent at least 15-minutes flipping through the heavy stock pages of this weighty volume saying – huh? It appeared to be an encyclopedia illustrated by a child, with attractive primitive sketches of people. The people are always in pairs, one large and older, one tiny and younger. They stand apart, staring blankly, as if both caught up in their separate private worlds. Some of the names, like Louisa May Alcott, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, are familiar, but most are not. Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor? Ernst von Dohnanyi? Alma Cluck? Efrem Zimbalist, Jr? Wait a minute, was he on the TV show 77 Sunset Strip?

By now a half hour has passed and I’m still flipping, reading snippets, struggling to figure out what makes this collection of pages qualify as a book. The title contains a clue. Instead of growing against the grain, all of these clever kids seem to come from clever parents. That seems to be the underlying message – brilliance begets brilliance – dull begets dull.


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