Jennifer McCaffrey has been working hard on her art for years and is thrilled when she is accepted to a prestigious art school. The school is everything she always thought it would be, mostly. There is one group of kids who seem to resent her and say she only got in because of her skin color. Jen, who loves to create new pieces of artwork that incorporate her Indigenous heritage, finds herself a target when the group tells her to stop being "so Indian”. The night before the big art show at school, Jen’s beading art project is defaced. Jen has to find a way not to let the haters win.
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Copyright © Melanie Florence 2020
Published in Canada and the United States in 2020 by Orca Book Publishers.orcabook.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Title: Dreaming in color / Melanie Florence. Names: Florence, Melanie, author. Series: Orca soundings. Description: Series statement: Orca soundings Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20200176056 | Canadiana (ebook) 20200176064 | ISBN 9781459825864 (softcover) | ISBN 9781459812918 (PDF) | ISBN 9781459812925 (EPUB) Classification: LCC PS8611.L668 D74 2020 | DDC jC813/.6—dc23
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930604
Summary: In this high-interest accessible novel for teen readers, a young teen is thrilled when she gets into art school but shocked to learn that some students feel she doesn’t belong there.
Orca Book Publishers is committed to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in the making of our books. We make every effort to use materials that support a sustainable future.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Edited by Tanya Trafford Design by Ella Collier Cover photography by Gettyimages.ca/J Prichard (front) and Shutterstock.com/Krasovski Dmitri (back)
Printed and bound in Canada.
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For Taylor. May art school be the first of many great adventures.
Jen loved this time of day, when everyone was still asleep and the house was silent except for the sound of the clock ticking in the living room. The sun was coming up, painting the sky in shades of pink, purple, orange and red. The colors matched the paint she had loaded on her paintbrush. She studied the canvas propped up on the easel by the window. She created some of her best work in the early hours of the morning when everyone else was asleep.
As the sky slowly got brighter and brighter and the birds outside got louder and louder, Jen added the finishing touches to her painting. Happy with the final result, she stretched her back with a low groan.
“How long have you been up?” her mom asked from the studio doorway. Jen’s dad had converted the sunroom for her so she had somewhere to work and store all the art supplies that used to clutter every available surface.
Jen yawned. “I don’t know—since five thirty maybe?”
Her mom stepped into the room. She leaned over Jen’s shoulder and studied the painting. “You finished!” she said, taking a sip of her tea.
“Yeah. What do you think?”
“I think it’s beautiful, honey.”
“Thanks. I wanted to get it finished before my art school audition today.”
Her mom looked at Jen over the rim of her teacup. “Which pieces are you choosing for your portfolio?” she asked.
Jen looked around the room and frowned at the canvases propped up against the walls and the drawings tacked to every surface.
“I’m not sure yet. A couple of paintings—and I still want to do a multimedia piece with the feathers you gave me. Some of my drawings...” She sighed. “How am I supposed to know which ones the judges will like?”
Her mother smiled gently and blew on her tea before taking another sip.
“Choose the pieces that speak to you the loudest. The ones that show others who you are. Those are the ones that will get you into that school.” Then Jen’s mom left the room as quietly as she had entered it.
The sun had fully risen by the time Jen started flipping through the canvases, trying to decide which ones to include.
A grape bounced off her head and rolled under her easel.
“Hey!” Jen looked up to see her brother, John, standing in the doorway, holding a bag of grapes. He grinned at her and popped one into his mouth.
“Whatcha doing, pest?” he asked.
“How am I the pest in this scenario?” Jen laughed. Her brother was annoying—like all brothers were. But if she was being honest, she had to admit that he was one of her favorite people. They always had each other’s backs.
John came into the room and held out the bag of grapes. She took one and looked around the room.
“Which ones do you think I should bring to my audition?” she asked, waving her arms wildly. “I can’t decide! Can you help?”
John popped another grape into his mouth and threw an arm around his sister’s shoulder.
“Let’s take a look, little sis,” he said, steering Jen toward a pile of watercolor paintings in the corner.
After about fifteen minutes of wading through the various pieces scattered around the room, Jen had a nice pile of art for her audition.
“I like this one a lot,” John said, holding up a watercolor that Jen had added beadwork to. It had taken ages to get the beading right, and she still had a bruise on her finger from poking it repeatedly with a needle. But the work was one of her favorites. She seemed to prefer the ones to which she’d added what she liked to call “Indigenous flair.”
“Yeah. Do you think the judges will like it too?” she asked.
“If they don’t, they’re idiots,” he said.
“Who’s an idiot?” their mother asked, walking back into the room. She stood behind Jen and smoothed her daughter’s long dark hair, something that always made Jen feel calm and peaceful. And also strong.
“No one. Yet.” She grinned. “John helped me pick out my audition pieces. What do you think?”
Her mother leafed through the pile.
“I love these ones.” Her mother smiled, running her fingers over a couple of watercolors embellished with beads. “I’m proud of you for using traditional art in your work.”
Jen beamed with pride. “But do you think the judges will like them?” she asked.
Her mother cocked an eyebrow at her and smiled.
“If they don’t, they really are idiots.”
John laughed loudly and handed Jen the bag of grapes as he started to leave the studio.
“Where are you going, nistes?” she asked, using the Cree word for “big brother.”
“School. I have to get ready or I’m going to be late.”
“You better get ready too, pîyesîs,” her mother said. She always called Jen “little bird” because she flitted about from place to place. “Your dad’s waiting in the kitchen.”
“Crap! I didn’t know it was so late! I need to have a shower,” said Jen as she ran out the door. “John, wait! I need to go first!”
Jen was in and out of the shower in record time. Back in the studio, she placed her artwork carefully into her portfolio.
“Are you almost ready?” her father asked from the doorway, his red hair still wet from the shower.
“Did you beat John to the shower too?” she asked.
“Of course. I jumped in while he was in the kitchen making a sandwich.” He grinned at her, his blue eyes crinkling up at the corners. Just like her brother’s.
“Can you carry this one?” Jen shoved a canvas almost as tall as she was at him. “And this one too.”
Her dad fumbled with them at first, then lifted them up easily.
“Okay.” Jen looked around the room one more time. “I think I’m ready.” She picked up her portfolio, slung it over her shoulder and followed him out the door to the car.
She hadn’t thought she’d be nervous. She knew she had as good a chance as anyone of getting into the school. She had worked hard and created the best artwork she was capable of creating. But her stomach was alive with butterflies, and her feet were jittery. Her father kept up a steady stream of conversation that she knew was designed to distract her.
It didn’t work.
Jen smiled and tried to interject a “yeah” or “mm-hmm” at appropriate intervals, but all she could think about was the audition. All her friends would be going to the same high school, where, as far as art went, the best they could hope for was some general painting and sketching instruction. Jen had outgrown those classes a while ago. She’d never be happy there. She wanted to be in a place where she could push herself to create better art and meet new people who loved expressing themselves creatively as much as she did.
Was that too much to ask?
“You okay, my girl?” her dad asked, glancing at her.
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Nervous?” He reached over and took her hand, which she figured must be pretty clammy and probably disgusting. He didn’t seem to mind though. Jen nodded then blurted out what she had been thinking the entire car ride.
“Dad, what if I don’t get in?”
She hadn’t wanted to admit her greatest fear out loud. Because saying it out loud meant it might actually happen. Saying it out loud made it a real possibility.
The car pulled into the school parking lot. Jen looked at the sign above the front door—School of the Arts. She wanted to belong here more than anything.
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