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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

Blood Water Paint

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Author/Publisher/Website: McCullough, J.
Copyright: 2018
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: May/2019
Submitting suppliers/Website: Not Available
Primary Identifier: 9780735232112
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 9-12
(View recommended grades and subjects) English Language Arts

Resource Description

At age seventeen, young painter Artemisia Gentileschi, of 17th century Rome, is raped by her art tutor and, remembering the biblical stories of strong women that her mother told her, she decides to fight back and seek justice. Her father takes her case to court, as a woman did not have that right during that time period, and Artemisia wins! This powerful and emotional novel, told primarily in verse, is based on the true story of Artemisia and focuses on the inequality and violence that women faced in the past, yet its message is still relevant today, in light of the #metoo movement. Suitable as an independent, literature circle, or class novel for grades 9-12. Social considerations noted.


Does the resource support BC curriculum?
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Creative Thinking
Critical thinking
Personal Awareness and Responsibility
Social Responsibility
Blood Water Paint is a feminist historical novel about a female painter who wins a trial against her rapist in 1612. This novel relates directly to the ELA curriculum 9-12 as it addresses the Big Idea that the exploration of text and story deepens our understanding of diverse, complex ideas about identity, others, and the world. This story also touches on the curricular Big Idea that language can shape and influence others as, thematically, this story explicitly highlights the importance of telling one's story and having it be believed. It fits with the Law 12 Big Idea that "Laws are interpreted, and these interpretations may evolve over time as a society’s values and worldviews change".


Gender Roles, Identity & Sexual Orientation:
The protagonist's life is controlled by all the men around her: her father, brother, rapist, male judge and jury. It deals with both victim blaming and slut shaming. She is the subject of sexism because she is not considered good enough as a woman to be an artist's apprentice. There are multiple instances where she is ogled because she's a woman.
The protagonist's hands are crushed as a punishment for speaking out against a male in her society. This punishment directly takes away her ability to be an artist.
Belief System:
The mother changes traditional biblical stories. The narrator comments on how the Christian church has allowed males to live a less than pious life as they can have their sins forgiven. The protagonist feels as if she has sinned because she feels envious of how a man looks at her painting.
This novel explicitly deals with violence against women. The protagonist describes feeling unsafe in rooms with men, she describes two men forcing her to take her clothes off, multiple instances of non-consensual sex and rape, explicitly describes cutting a man's head off after Judith uses sex in order to get close enough to him to commit the act, and describes a woman being stoned to death.
The narrator's father expects her to pose naked for his paintings. Tusia is paid to look the other way while her sister is being raped.
Judith and Abra decide to sneak into an enemy camp, despite their own better judgement. They know if they are caught that they will be tortured and most likely killed. But they do so anyway, in order to exact their revenge on a man who treated them poorly.
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Social Considerations Comments:
This novel is set in the 17th century and because of this it is a world where women have little to no agency. The novel explicitly deals with this issue. Although this novel contains multiple instances of violence against women, these occasions only add to the power of the narrative. The novel's message is to explicitly show the inequality that women faced in the past, and its message is still relevant today, especially in light of the #metoo movement. Although the protagonist struggles under the male gaze, ultimately it is with the help of the stories that her mother told of her strong women, that she, too, learns to rail against male expectation.


Is the resource engaging?
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Does the resource provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Is the level of detail appropriate?
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
The content of the novel is mature in nature, but written in such a way that it teems with emotion that will engage students and provide them with multiple opportunities to connect with current events, such as the #metoo movement. It is very important that all students are exposed to a variety of narrative perspectives, particularly of those from marginalized groups. The content and reading level cannot be adjusted or differentiated because it is a novel.


Does the resource make effective use of the medium?
Is the resource easy to use?
Is the use of font, text size and presentation uniform?
Are extraneous elements/illustrations kept to a minimum?
The novel is written in verse and uses different fonts to indicate different voices and speakers. It also uses italics to indicate when people are speaking in the poetry. It is clear and easy to follow. Occasionally the author uses prose in order to indicate that the story in that chapter is a story that the protagonist's mother had told her when she was young. The verse is broken up into section using numbers and the prose has titled chapters. It does not have any visual aspects. There is an e-book as well as audiobook available.


Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Plot description:
This is the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a young female painter living in 17th century Rome, who wins a trial against her rapist. Her father takes all of the credit for her paintings. Her mother, who died when she was younger, used to tell her stories of powerful women. Artemisia uses these stories to fight for truth and justice after she is raped by an attractive male artist who had promised to save her from her father's controlling ways.
Related Comments:
This historical fiction is written mostly in verse, aside from the mother's stories which are written in prose. The verse is vivid with imagery and the use of partial second person is haunting. The author explicitly builds theme (the women's story's must be heard) through the events of the women in the novel. The story is powerful and full of emotional weight.
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Well-developed themes
Effective figurative language
Point of view


At intended grade level(s)
A William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist ; 2018 National Book Award Longlist.


This novel could be used for various classroom purposes: independent novel story, literature circles, full class novel. It could also be used to study poetry as the protagonist tells her story in verse. This also could be used to study changing views of personhood and how that is reflected in a different country's laws in a Law 12 class.