Making a Mark: A Review of ‘The Dot’

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas

Reading Level:

Grades K-1

Review and Thoughts:

Many of us have confronted a blank paper when faced with the task of writing an assignment or drawing a picture. It can feel overwhelming.  After some initial struggles there is a glimmer of an idea – the promise of something unique and worthwhile.  Then, the first sentence or the first stroke blossoms into an exclusive creation. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is a story about such an experience.

Vashti is a little girl who states emphatically that she cannot draw.  Her art teacher however does not accept her mindset and encourages her to take the first step – to make a mark – just a small mark.  Vashti makes one small dot with a marker on the piece of paper and thinks this proves to her teacher that she definitely cannot draw. Then an interesting thing happens when she sees that the teacher has framed and displayed her “dot” on the wall. Vashti believes she can do better.  She opens the paints that she has never used and takes yet another first step.  With new enthusiasm she begins to paint dots in different colors and sizes. Each painting helps her visualize new possibilities.  

Her teacher makes sure her art is prominently displayed at the art fair.  This is where she meets a young boy who is fascinated with her art.  He seeks her out and compliments her style and ability.  He also states that he cannot draw.  Vashti takes the lesson she learned from her teacher and the understanding of a struggling artist and encourages the boy to begin to make his mark, to realize his potential.

It is interesting that Vashti, a girl still so young, has already developed the perspective that she cannot draw. Why does she believe this at her age?  Who influenced her?  These questions are not answered in the story, but they do remind us that our response, whether positive or negative, has an effect on others.  Vashti seems so restricted by what she believes is her ability that she faces an invisible obstacle.  When she finally opens the paints that have never been tried, she also opens herself up to the possibilities of her talent, exploration, and joy.  She may not realize it, but she will learn that wonderful things can be achieved when she finally has the courage to use the gifts God has given her.  The next step that seems to flow naturally from her new revelation is sharing her talent with the little boy at the end of the story.  Like Vashti, we are all called to use the talents God gives us to encourage others.  It helps us “practice generosity and kindness.”

Vashti’s story is simple but it conveys such an important lesson.  Children in grades K-1 and even a bit younger will enjoy the story and the variety of dots Vashti paints.

The font in this book looks more like a personal printing style, and the lines are also a bit uneven. It is a unique style and quite different than most books.  This could cause some difficulty for children who have tracking issues.

Further Discussion:

  • Vashti seems a bit sarcastic when answering her teacher when she says, “Very funny,” although her response seems to be the result of frustration.
  • Vashti possibly means “thread” in Hebrew, but it is most likely of Persian origin. In the Old Testament this is the name of the first wife of King Ahasuerus of Persia before he marries Esther. [ ]
  • Use simple designs as a starting point for pictures.  Divide a piece of paper into six evenly spaced sections.  In each section use a bold color to make a simple design.  Ask your child to create a picture using the design as a starting point.
  • Examples of simple designs:  dot, zigzag, horizontal or vertical line, small circle, arrow, wavy line
  • Here are four things you can do to help your child discover and develop his or her special, God-given gifts:
  1. Expose children to a range of stimuli and experiences.
    Read books, play music, provide art supplies, and surround them with toys that combine fun with a challenge.
  2. Be alert for special interests.
    Most child-development experts say that the “globally gifted” child is largely a myth. Some children will show an intense interest in one or two areas—music, art, math, writing, or other fields. This can indicate a special talent.
  3. Challenge—but be realistic.
    Children develop their skills when adults set high standards, but they can be demoralized by unrealistic expectations. It’s important to strike a balance.
  4. Pray for your child’s development.
    Prayer helps keep things in perspective. God is present in your family and in your child’s life. It’s not all up to you.   [Loyola Press]

Catholic Resources:

    • I think parents do encourage their children’s talents. It is also important to help our children foster a sense of thanksgiving to God for those talents and seek ways to share those talents to help others. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” [Luke 12:48]
  • We accept the gifts God has given us.
  • We take care of them and develop them.
  • We give those gifts back to God by sharing them with others.
  • Stewardship Prayer

Almighty and ever-faithful Lord,
gratefully acknowledging Your mercy
and humbly admitting our need,
we pledge our trust in You and each other.

Filled with desire,
we respond to Your call for discipleship
by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ.
We profess that the call requires us
to be stewards of Your gifts.
As stewards, we receive Your gifs gratefully,
cherish and tend them in a responsible manner,
share them in practice and love with others,
and return them with increase to the Lord.

We pledge to our ongoing formation as stewards
and our responsibility to call others to that same endeavor.
Almighty and ever-faithful God,
it is our fervent hope and prayer
that You who have begun this good work in us
will bring it to fulfillment in Jesus Christ,
our Lord. Amen

  • The patron saint of artists is St. Catherine of Bologna.  “She shows that she is indeed a saint worthy to intercede for and inspire artists. Her creative spirit, talents, visions, and struggle with doubts make her a saint even modern-day artists can relate to. Her feast day is March 9.”
  • Pope Benedict spoke eloquently of this humble saint:

From the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives.  She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelieve, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle.  She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith.  Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave Him, she did not abandon Him.  And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.”


  • A prayer to St. Catherine :

Dear saintly Poor Clare, Saint Catherine of Bologna, so rich in love for Jesus and Mary, you were endowed with great talents by God and you left us most inspiring writings and paintings for wondrous beauty. You did all for God’s greater glory and in this you are a model for all. Make artists learn lessons from you and use their talents to the full.

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  • CCC 1937 – “These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular “talents” share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures”
  • CCC 2501 – “Created in the image of God, man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man.”