Tag Archive: art


ill give you the sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jude and Noah are twins and they are so close.  Both of them are artists and Noah in particular sees the world as constant inspiration for his artwork.  Noah is withdrawn from others his age and bullied by other boys.  Jude though is being noticed by the same boys who bully her brother and as they turn thirteen, the two of them may be different but they are still close.  Jude is wearing lipstick and diving from cliffs.  Noah is starting to fall for the boy across the street.  Three years later though, the two of them are completely estranged from one another.  They barely speak.  Jude is the artist now and Noah no longer paints.  Jude has discovered a mentor for her art and a boy who is just as damaged as she is.  Noah is a normal straight teen who hangs out with those who once bullied him and now dives from cliffs himself.  How did two teens change so much in such a short period of time?  That’s the story here, and it involves grief, loss, betrayal, lies, love and truth.

Nelson tells the early part of the twins’ story in Noah’s voice.  We get to experience the joy he feels about art and the beauty of his emerging sexuality combined with his fear of being discovered.  Jude tells the story after their relationship is fractured.  Her story is one of passions and change.  They are both stories of trying to hide what you are, trying to become something new.  They are stories that veer swiftly, change often and shout with emotion and pain. 

Nelson writes with exquisite emotion on the page.  She shows the passion, the fear, the grief, the love vividly and with such heart.  It is her emotional honesty on the page that avoids sentimentality at all.  Rather this book is raw and aching in every way, from the new relationships that are filled with lust and longing to the destroyed sibling relationship that is one lost and hurt betrayal after another.  She also manages to somehow capture art and inspiration on the page, the power of art to express, the emotions that it creates and acknowledges, the joy of creation and the agony of being unable to make it. 

Powerful storytelling that is beautifully written and tells the story of two siblings and their journey through being teenagers.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

monster book

Monster Book by Alice Hoogstad

This wordless book shows the power of art for a whole community.  In a black-and-white town that looks like a coloring book with black outlines, a little girl picks up a red crayon and starts drawing a heart on a wall.  Soon she moves on to creating a monster on the road and her dog picks up her heart drawing and runs after her.  The orange monster comes to life and the girl quickly moves on to another creature.  One after another, she draws them and they come to life.  The rest of the town looks on with amused expressions and no alarm even as monsters dance in the streets.  Soon the monsters have crayons too and are coloring the buildings and people.  This though is too much and the townsfolk order them to leave town and the children start to clean up the walls back to white again.  Rain falls and washes all of the color away, or does it?

This is a picture book that celebrates public art and then turns whimsical and magical as the creatures come to life.  Despite their fearsome appearance, they are friendly and silly rather than mean.  The art is quite unique with its color-book feel and then the colors being drawn in.  There is a radiant quality to the colors that are used and the loose and generous way the colors are applied invites children to be even more creative when they color too.

While this could encourage children to color on white walls, this book is much more likely to end up in a family coloring together appropriately and creatively.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Lemniscaat and Myrick Marketing.

unfinished life of addison stone

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

A unique and blazing novel of the life and death of a young artist, this novel for teens brilliantly captures the rise and fall of a legend.  Even as a little girl, Addison was a gifted artist who impressed teachers and won contests.  As she grew into a teenager, her family life grew more complicated and her mental health more fragile.  Addison began to hear voices, particularly a young woman named Ida who was a ghost in her grandparent’s home.  But Ida would not let go of Addison, even when she returned home and Addison was eventually hospitalized and treated for schizophrenia.  Through it all though, Addison created art, art good enough to get her noticed in a city like New York where she moved after high school.  Addison had “it” that combination of charisma and talent that quickly got her noticed.  It got her an agent, rich boyfriends, friends in the art world, and moved her further into chaos.  But in the end, the question is what killed her?  Which of her boyfriends took her life as she created a final work of art? 

This piece of fiction is stupendous.  It reads so realistically that one might even begin to search Addison’s name of Google to see more of her work or watch the video of her swinging on the chandelier.  The use of photographs is brilliant.  Weaving Addison firmly into the story through art and photos.  The art is also a fascinating component.  Meant to be worthy of attention from the biggest galleries in the world, the art is luminous on the page, and bravely done.  It forms a short lifetime of work, showing in a way that words could not the talent that was lost.

Griffin uses a structure of interviews with those who knew Addison.  This includes her parents, her friends from high school, boy friends, art critics, and many more.  Done any other way, this book would not have worked.  Written with such skill, the interviews are elegantly done, never taking a straight look at Addison, but instead a wonderful wandering one that is typical of documentaries.  It also works because we get to see Addison through other characters’ eyes, through the lenses of love, envy, desire.  In the end the different voices create a death chorus for Addison, sung in a beautiful harmony.

Wow, just wow.  This is an incredible work of fiction where the author captures just the right tone and format to take fiction to a new level and create reality fiction in a new and amazing way.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

draw

Draw! by Raúl Colón

In this wordless picture book, Colón recreates his love of drawing as a child and the way that it could take him to new places.  Here a boy is sitting on his bed looking at a book about Africa.  He sets the book aside and picks up his drawing pad and a pencil.  Soon readers can see the images in his head as he puts them on paper.  The boy is transported directly to Africa, setting up his drawing easel in front of each of the different animals of Africa.  The elephant is first and after seeing his picture gives the boy a ride to met the zebras.  The book moves from one animal to the next, the boy changing how he approaches them according to what animal it is.  Until finally a group of monkeys make a picture of the boy.  Readers and the boy return to his bedroom, now littered with all of the drawings of the animals.

This book nicely captures without using any words at all the transformative power of art and creativity.  It beautifully shows how art can transport you to a different place and time, moving you into the flow of creating a work.  It also demonstrates how inspiration can strike and the flow of creativity can overtake you in the best possible way.

Colón’s illustrations are done in pen, ink, watercolors and pencil.  They move from line drawings with pastel tones of real life to a more lush and rich color and style when we are inside the boy’s imagination.  Colón uses lines on these more colorful pages to give texture and movement to the image.  They are illustrations that invite you to walk right into them.

Imagination, creativity and art come together in this book to transport readers right into Africa.  Now it’s time to get out your own pencils and see where they will take you.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

red pencil

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Amira is an artist who spends her free time drawing with sharp sticks in the dirt.  She has just turned twelve and is now old enough to wear a toob.  Amira longs to go to school, but her mother doesn’t believe that girls should go to school.  So Amira stays on the family farm with her parents and younger sister who was born with misshapen legs.  Then the peace is shattered when their farm is attacked and Amira’s beloved father is killed.  Now they must leave their farm behind and head to a refugee camp where people are crowded into a small space and hunger is constant.  But when Amira is given a red pencil, her mind once again is able to escape into her art and she starts to once again dream of a different future and how to get there.

Set in Sudan, this verse novel is filled with power, wrenching written.  The brutality of the attack is captured clearly on the page as is the shock of loss that continues to ripple and tear at the small family remaining.  Pinkney captures grief on the page, writing with a clarity and beauty that is stark at times and layered and subtle at others.  Her verse speaks to the power of dreams to lift people out of where they are trapped and make a difference. 

From waves of wheat on the page to the family together, Evans’ illustrations support the powerful verse.  As the tone of the poems shift, so does his art which moves from playful to dramatic along with the text.  My favorite images capture small pieces of life, little glimpses of what makes a home and a day.

An impressive novel in verse, this book offers a strong survivor of a protagonist who uses art as a force to lift herself.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

remy and lulu

Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison

Lulu the dog finds a new owner in the struggling portrait painter, Remy.  The two head out into the French countryside together looking for new clients for Remy’s work.  He doesn’t get many repeat customers because of his abstract style.  Lulu herself is also an artist and quietly begins to add her own meticulous and smaller paintings to the corner of Remy’s large canvasses.  Her tiny art is of the subject’s pets and once the owner sees the tiny rendering, they absolutely love it.  Remy quickly becomes the toast of the town, but is unaware of what is really happening.  What will happen when Remy discovers that a large part of his fame is Lulu’s talent?

This is a wonderfully rich picture book.  The story has lots of depth to it, filled with creativity of both humans and hounds.  It is a tale of friendship, of artistry, of pride and of forgiveness and acceptance.  Remy is a wonderful character, bearded and smocked; he is a great blend of gruff exterior and a huge heart.  Lulu herself has a wonderful delicacy that plays in delightful contrast to Remy.  They are a solid pair.

Most inventive in this picture book is that Hawkes did the larger illustrations, the ones with rich colors that pop on the page as well as Remy’s abstract work.  Paired with his work is that of Harrison, who is an award-winning miniatures artist and her work is shown as Lulu’s.  The difference in the two artists is gorgeous and striking, perfectly matching what is happening in the story itself.  It’s a delight.

Best for slightly older children, this book will be embraced by art teachers and art-loving children and dogs alike.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Two by Tullet

Herve Tullet is one of the most innovative picture book authors around today.  I look forward to his books to see what he will come up with.  This year, we have two new books by him.

help we need a title

Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet

This first book is not quite ready to be read yet.  In fact, the characters inside are still getting ready.  There isn’t really a story, though they are looking for one.  And the characters themselves are rough sketches rather than lovely images.  In fact, the entire inside of the book is a mess.  Perhaps if we found an author?  But even that doesn’t help much, especially when the characters are disappointed in the story he creates for them.  Yet in the end, it is a book, with a story, some funny moments, and it even manages to tell readers how a book is created and what its elements are.

Quite clever, once you get past the rough illustrations and embrace them as part of the concept.  Tullet himself appears in the book, his photographed head and shoulders plunked onto a drawn body.  The entire book feel unfinished, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to feel.  This is a clever way to introduce young children to authors, writing, and how stories are crafted.

mix it up

Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet

Released September 16, 2014.

Following his clever Press Here, this book invites readers to touch the pages once again.  Except in this book, readers are mixing colors, mashing things together, combining things, and having a marvelous messy time.  Tullet excels at creating books that are immensely participatory despite having no flaps or pop ups.  It’s all in the readers’ imaginations and that’s such a wonderful thing.

I consider this one of the best picture books about color that I have ever seen.  Thanks to the feel of mixing the paints yourself, readers are left with a deeper understanding of color.  They will get to add white to colors and see what happens, and black as well.  They create secondary colors from primary ones and leave their own hands on the page too.  Clever, interactive and wildly imaginative, this is another winner from Tullet.

Both books are appropriate for ages 3-5 and both will be embraced by readers of all ages.

emilys blue period

Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Lisa Brown

An intriguing mix of subjects, this picture book combines art with divorce and it works gorgeously.  Emily really likes the work of Picasso and the way that he put body parts in odd places in his cubist work.  It reflects the way that Emily feels about her own family life, with her father now living in a different home than the rest of them.  Emily tries to help her father pick out furniture for his new home, but it’s not easy and her little brother quickly becomes problematic at the store and has to be carried out.  Even art becomes less fun for Emily.  She feels blue a lot of the time and not like using any other colors.  Then her art teacher shows her about collage, and Emily finds a way to express her feelings through her art and depict her family in their own unique style.

Told in short chapters, this picture book is just right for elementary students.  The unique combination of subjects works particularly well, each supporting the other and allowing them to be explored in more depth.  Daly manages to use art to show the emotions of children experiencing a divorce and the divorce to show the importance of art in expressing yourself when you can’t find the words. 

Brown’s art is light-handed and friendly.  She captures Picasso’s art with that same light touch and creates Emily’s blue time with plenty of blue but no darkness.  The result is a book that is filled with light, despite it’s more somber subjects.  It keeps the book from being too serious and allows the emotions to surface nicely.

A striking combination of art and real life, this picture book truly shows the power of art in one’s life.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

absolutely almost

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

The author of A Tangle of Knots returns with a brilliant new protagonist in her new novel.   Albie doesn’t get good grades, in fact he was asked to leave his private school and is going to be starting public school instead.  Albie isn’t the best artist.  He isn’t the best at anything at all.  Except maybe at eating doughnuts for breakfast.  But when he changes schools, things start to change for Albie.  It could be the great new babysitter he gets, since his parents are very busy.  Calista is an artist and she thinks it’s OK that Albie reads Captain Underpants books even though he’s in 5th grade and that he sometimes needs a break from school.  It could be math club, that starts each day with a joke and sneaks math in when Albie isn’t paying attention.  It could be a new best friend, Betsy, someone he can talk to and joke with and who doesn’t get mad when Albie gets confused.  But things aren’t all great.  Albie’s other best friend is appearing on a reality TV show and suddenly Albie gets popular at school, risking his friendship with Betsy.  Albie has a lot to figure out before he knows exactly what he’s good at.

Graff’s writing here is stellar.  She writes with an ease that makes for a breezy read, yet it deals with deep issues along the way.  Thanks to her light touch, the book reads quickly, never bogging down into the issues for too long before lightening again.  Still, it is the presence of those deep issues that make this such a compelling read.  The fact that the book deals with so much yet never feels overwhelmed by any of them is a wonder and a feat.

Throughout the entire book the real hero is Albie.  He is a character that is ordinary, every-day and yet is still a delight to read about.  His perspective is down to earth, often confused, and he walks right into every social trap there is.  He is a character you simply have to root for, a regular boy who is also a hero.  He shows that simply making it through each day being yourself is heroic, and a win.  The world is filled with Albies and this book shows why they should be celebrated.  He’s a delight.

A book with at least four starred reviews, this is a standout novel this year.  Get your hands on it and share it with kids.  It’s a unique and surprising read, just like Albie himself.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

rules of summer

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

Enter the surreal world of two brothers with a picture told in few words and many pictures.  The book takes place in the previous summer and explains what one of the brothers learned that summer.  The lessons are strange, but the images are even wilder.  The first lesson is “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.”  It is accompanied by a wonderful and magnificently creepy image of a huge rabbit the size of a house with a red eye staring over the wall as the two brothers cower on the other side.  As the pages turn, the world gets odder and odder, forming a cohesive world but one that surprises, horrifies and delights.

As Tan blends humor with his frightening images, one starts to see a world that is beyond our own and yet strangely parallel.  These brothers live in a different world, one with its own rules and laws but one that is hauntingly familiar to our own.  Perhaps my favorite series of images is the series of pictures for “Never wait for an apology” where the younger brother is padlocked in a small steam engine with smoke pouring from the smokestack.  Black birds fly past.  Since all of the other images were done as single picture, I didn’t expect to turn the page and see the image continue from farther away.  It all evoked so brilliantly the loneliness, the trapped feeling, the isolation of waiting for an apology. 

Tan continues to surprise and delight in this new picture book.  While not for everyone, there are some children who will adore this skewed world that speaks to our own.  Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

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