From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—This biography introduces an obscure but fascinating American Revolution figure—a patriotic precursor to Madame Tussaud. Born in Oyster Bay, NY, in 1725, Patience Lovell grew up in a Quaker household. From an early age, she exhibited a gift for creating lifelike sculptures, first using clay, and later, wax. Widowed at 45, she moved to Philadelphia, where she opened an art studio. Wealthy clients commissioned busts and figures of themselves. After establishing permanent exhibits in Philadelphia and New York, Wright opened a London studio. Letters of introduction from Ben Franklin helped to establish her success in England. While her efforts to persuade King George not to wage war on the colonies failed, her engaging nature helped her obtain information from members of Parliament and military officers. "Patience led them into revealing secrets by offering wrong
information, which they immediately corrected." She put the secrets inside hollow busts that she sent back home, revealing which colonists took bribes from the British, as well as details about enemy weapons and attacks. The delicately rendered, gouache-and-pastel illustrations, covering full spreads, portray the artist, the early American landscape, period costumes, and life-size, fully dressed sculptures. The one of Franklin's head looks alarmingly alive, as the coloring, facial expression, and eyes are so real. Use this unique biography to enrich social-studies units on the Revolution and on women's history.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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*Starred Review* As a child, Patience Wright enjoyed sculpting from clay. Years later, after the death of her husband, she decided to support her children through her art. Her wax-modeling business, producing three-dimensional portraits, busts, and life-size replicas of clients, became a huge success, as Shea explains in her informative author's note, "a female artist was rare enough . . . a woman who passionately pursued her career . . . was unheard of." Wright's life was to become even more unconventional. After moving her business to London, she became privy to information about the Revolutionary War, which she heard from important clients. A wonderful picture of Ben Franklin's wax head illustrates how Wright sent secret messages in sculptures she shipped to America. Shea writes with a dynamic simplicity that brings Wright to life. At the same time, she seamlessly incorporates information about the war and events leading up to it into her text. Andersen has a way with women characters; her cover depiction of Wright, looking straight at the audience, a small wax head in her hand, is particularly effective. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved