Oneal proposed Grandma Moses as a topic for the Women of Our Times series, and her clear respect for the artist shines throughout this biographical account. Young readers familiar with Oneal’s fiction will recognize immediately the many connections shared by the author and her subject. Oneal’s most impressive accomplishment was her ability to capture Moses as a character, giving her almost fictional dimensionality. She does not write a direct biography; instead, she tells the story of a life. Oneal imbues young Anna Mary Robertson with a lively spirit and a feminist outlook, which engages modern readers without betraying the historical or personal facts. The author firmly sets the story in its historical time and evokes a sense of place with verisimilitude and simplicity. She peoples the tale with the necessary individuals but never detracts from directed attention to Moses herself.
Oneal’s ability to evoke visual images with words matches her subject perfectly. In Grandma Moses, Oneal’s own compelling interest in color enables her to recognize that shared quality in the painter. Oneal extends that recognition through her skill as a writer, choosing essential details to highlight individual qualities: “She loved color—the blue and purple wildflowers she found in the spring, the amber color of homemade soap, the pink apron with pockets her mother made her.”
Oneal’s language speaks directly to her young audience in a...
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