My Last Summer with Cass, by Mark Crilley

“A good friendship is like a work of art.”

Megan and Cass have been friends forever. Their families vacationed together since they were young, and the two girls could count on seeing each other every summer at the lakeside cabin their parents rented. It was during their time there that Megan and Cass discovered their shared love of art, and it’s where they had their first collaboration and were discovered and encouraged by a woman with an eye for talent.

As the girls get older, their lives change dramatically, and their summers by the lake are just memories. With college choices on the horizon, Megan manages to convince her parents to let her visit Cass in New York City for a couple of weeks, and that time changes how both young women think about themselves, their friendship, and their art.

MY LAST SUMMER WITH CASS by Mark Crilley is gorgeous. The characters have depth and beauty, the art is fantastic, and the story is one that will resonate with both teens and adults. I love Crilley’s illustrations because he manages to tell so much about a character in subtle ways, and this book shows that he’s equally adept with words.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, but I encourage you to pick up this book. You can read it in one sitting, and then start it all over again to immerse yourself in the illustrations and fully appreciate the beauty of that part of the work. That’s certainly what I did.

I’ll be buying MY LAST SUMMER WITH CASS for the art-loving teens in my world–in part because I don’t want to give up my own copy–and I hope that this departure from his normal style isn’t Crilley’s last.

The Drawing Lesson, by Mark Crilley

the drawing lesson

THE DRAWING LESSON by Mark Crilley is a wonderful approach to learning to draw. A graphic novel combined with an art tutorial, the author/illustrator does a fantastic job weaving his drawing lessons into the story of David and Becky and the time they spend together. David is a young boy who desperately wants to learn to draw well. Becky is an artist who isn’t looking to be an art teacher, but who can’t resist David’s eagerness and his talent.

Crilley’s drawings throughout the novel are simple, but effective. The characters’ emotions shine through, and the story is well developed despite how basic the narrative is. David and Becky aren’t overly complicated artistic figures, and that allows the real star of this book to shine, the art lessons. As Becky teaches David the basics of drawing, their relationship grows along with his skill, and the lessons broaden to show the reader how to navigate life as well as how to complete a drawing: patience; recognizing mistakes and correcting them; and putting time into what you love are highlighted. These are important lessons for readers of all ages, but particularly Crilley’s target age group.

As for the drawing lessons themselves … I can’t rave enough about them. I haven’t seriously tried to draw in over 25 years (though my sitting-in-a-meeting doodles have a fan base), but if I’m reviewing a book on how to draw, I don’t feel I can do it justice without trying to follow along with the book’s lessons. Crilley does an AMAZING job teaching the techniques necessary to draw and draw well. As I did each exercise with the most rudimentary of tools (a mechanical pencil and my college ruled notebook), I produced sketches that had my children dazzled—something that’s not easy to do. Those same children have artistic talent, and I look forward to giving this book to them to see what they can do with it. I’ll also be sharing it with any kids on my gift buying list, and I’ll be recommending it to anyone who will listen.

I can’t stress enough how awesome I found this book to be. Be sure to check it out, and check out Mark’s YouTube channel too. He’s generous with his instruction there as well, and he obviously finds joy in helping others find their inner artist.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.