Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher/Year: Candlewick Press, 2003
Genre: Realistic Fiction
The Dot chronicles the creative endeavors of a young Indian student, Vashti, who transforms a simple jab of her pencil into a diverse gallery of dot masterpieces after her art teacher suggests she “make a mark” (p. 5). At the end of the story, Vashti instills confidence in a little boy and his squiggle by encouraging him to sign his work, just as Vashti’s art teacher had done for her.
The Dot illustrates Vashti’s transformation from a young girl who stubbornly accepts her artistic inability to an artist who found her personal calling after taking a leap of faith. Children who have felt racked for inspiration, doubtful of their talent, or motivated to action by the sheer encouragement of an elder can relate to Vashti’s transformation and her relationship with her art teacher. For children who do not identify with Vashti’s inspiration struggle, The Dot can function as a window. The Dot raises the idea that talent does not always come easily, and that not all those who are talented realize it immediately and without fear, anxiety, or a leap into the unknown. The Dot also functions as a door by modeling appropriate behavior and responses; rather than competing with others, Vashti decides to test her own ability. The Dot also encourages readers to pay it forward as Vashti did by inspiring confidence and pride in a classmate who faced a similar struggle.
Power, in the form of confidence, is evenly distributed in The Dot because it is relayed between the art teacher, Vashti, and the young boy. Culture and diversity are represented through multiracial characters; Vashti is Indian, and the art teacher, young boy, and other characters are drawn as African Americans. The Dot assumes a non-traditional view of culture and race; Vashti and her teacher challenge the norms of teachers being white and individuals of Indian descent being geared towards careers in math, science, and medicine.
Adjectives and exclamations add a dramatic feel and describe the creative energy Vashti experiences. The placement of text in The Dot does not influence the readers understanding of the story. In fact, the images can stand alone for they adequately sequence all of Vashti’s trials and successes. A watercolor dot becomes the symbol for Vashti’s creative energy (both positive and negative) and acts as a sort of spotlight and frame. As she moves from stubbornness to success, Vashti is drawn amidst a filled dot; the brushstrokes also get softer and less jagged as Vashti opens up to the creative experience. A filled dot also encircles the young boy during his talk with Vashti, further showing the power of inspiration. The Dot indirectly explores gender roles. Although Vashti and her female art teacher fit the stereotype of women being interested in the fine arts, Reynolds treats this representation with positivity. Vashti, though a girl, is illustrated in relatively gender-neutral clothing, which suggests that any child create art. Reynolds does not demean or objectify women either; the authority to give confidence and inspiration to others lies with the female characters. The young boy even looks up to Vashti as a role model and talented individual.