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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray, The

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Author/Publisher/Website: Latimer, E.
Copyright: 2018
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: Nov/2019
Submitting suppliers/Website: Not Available
Primary Identifier: 9781101919286
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 6-8
(View recommended grades and subjects) English Language Arts

Resource Description

Set in Victorian England in 1901, a young Bryony is imprisoned by her uncle and charged with producing painting after painting. One day, her paintings begin to take on a life of their own, coming to life and rampaging through the streets of London with murderous intent. Bryony sets out on a dangerous journey, on which she begins to understand the truth about her missing father and the deadly family curse that she must break. Canadian author E. Latimer takes readers on a journey to unravel mysteries and defeat villains in this novel, suitable for middle-grade students. As a read-aloud or as a choice in literature circles, it may be of particular interest to readers drawn to horror or suspense genres. Additionally, teachers may connect the story to art history lessons or the writings of Oscar Wilde.

CURRICULUM FIT

Does the resource support BC curriculum?
Moderately
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Communication
Creative Thinking
Critical thinking
Comments:
This novel supports the English Language Arts Big Idea: "Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and make connections to others and to the world." The novel gives insight into the conditions and perspectives prevalent in Victorian England.

SOCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

Gender Roles, Identity & Sexual Orientation:
Characters confront the gender-based behaviour expectations of the time period.
Violence:
Portraits and reflections come alive and go on a murderous rampage. Relatives of the protagonist keep her imprisoned and try to kill her. Angry mobs take over the streets, threatening lives.
Ethical:
The protagonist's relatives keep her locked up, forcing her to work as a portrait painter and not letting her out of the house. They defend their actions by spreading false rumours that she is mentally ill. Young teens are left at home alone while parents travel. Mira's mother is trying to arrange a marriage for her, although she is only thirteen years old.
Safety:
A main character smokes cigarettes. Young teens are left at home alone while parents travel.
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Moderately
Social Considerations Comments:
The plot requires the violence depicted in this suspenseful action-adventure story; it could be classified as a horror novel, suitable for middle-grade readers. The villains use portraits and reflections that come to life to commit the violence with unrealistic methods; this use of fantasy diminishes the risk of frightening young readers. Furthermore, the emphasis is on the action with scant details about injuries and no depiction of suffering. The heroine thwarts her uncle's attempt to murder her, but then rather than seeking revenge, she rescues him. Mira defies gender roles. It was important for the plot that one character is a smoker as he needed to supply a lighter at a crucial moment.

GENERAL CONTENT

Content
Should this product be identified as Canadian?
Yes
Is the resource engaging?
Extensively
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Extensively
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Extensively
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
Moderately
Audience:
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Extensively
Does the resource provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Extensively
Can the content be differentiated?
Moderately
Can reading level be adjusted?
Moderately
Is the level of detail appropriate?
Extensively
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Extensively
Comments:
Readers will be motivated to use creative and critical thinking to try to solve the novel's various mysteries. Teachers could extend the novel by exposing readers to the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which provides the novel's background, as well as to the other works by Oscar Wilde. Older readers could discuss Wilde's infamous imprisonment in Victorian England because of his sexual orientation. Teachers could also use the embedded art history facts to connect art lessons, and they could adjust the reading level by reading the novel aloud, explaining concepts and vocabulary. The only visuals are a removable book jacket and a decorated picture frame at the start of every chapter.

TECHNICAL DESIGN

Does the resource make effective use of the medium?
Extensively
Is the location of illustrations appropriate?
Extensively
Is the resource easy to use?
Extensively
Is the use of font, text size and presentation uniform?
Extensively
Are extraneous elements/illustrations kept to a minimum?
Extensively
Comments:
The font, text size, and presentation are uniform, with the references to art facts that Bryony uses as a calming ritual in uniform italics. The only visuals are a removable book jacket and a decorated picture frame at the start of every chapter.

PRINT NOVEL

Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Moderately
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
Moderately
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Extensively
Plot description:
Bryony's relatives have kept her imprisoned, forcing her to paint commissioned portraits. They refuse to answer her questions about her father and make vague references to a scandal that involved him. They also keep secret the identity of her patron, and Bryony plans to escape to find him. One of her portraits comes alive and embarks on a murderous rampage through London. The painted woman mysteriously activates other portraits to come to life and unite with reflections that attack their owners. Bryony comes to understand that she has inherited a deadly curse from her father and it's up to her to stop the carnage. In the process, she finds out the truth about her family's history.
Related Comments:
Set in London in 1901, this novel gives readers insight into conditions in Victorian England. Mira's mother believes that girls should limit themselves to ladylike etiquette and marriage. She plans to arrange a coming-out party for Mira's fourteenth birthday so that she can arrange her marriage to a much older man. Readers can picture the blend of horse-drawn carriages and automobiles that share the streets. Suspense is maintained by the novelty of the action (paintings and reflections coming to life with murderous intent) as well as several interconnected mysteries. The male protagonist gradually evolves to become as courageous and resourceful as Bryony and Mira.
Genre:
Adventure
Historical
Horror
Mystery / Suspense
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Type:
Novel

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Readability:
At intended grade level(s)

SUGGESTED CLASSROOM USAGE

Comments:
Readers' critical and creative thinking could be sparked as they try to unravel various mysteries embedded in the novel and try to figure out how the protagonists can defeat the villains. This novel would be suitable for a class read-aloud, especially for a teacher wanting to connect with art history lessons or the writings of Oscar Wilde. It would also be a suitable literature circle choice, especially to engage readers attracted to horror or suspense genres.
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