Review: The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock

noisy paint box

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Enter the amazing world of abstract art with this picture book biography of Kandinsky.  Vasya Kandinsky was raised to be a very proper young Russian boy.  Then his Auntie gave him a box of paints and he started to hear colors as sounds.  No one else could hear the sounds, but to Vasya they were a symphony that he could paint.  Vasya grew up and stopped painting.  He still heard the colors around him, but he was going to be a lawyer.  When he attended the opera one evening, Vasya saw the colors emerge from the music and was never quite the same again.  He became a painter and tried to meet everyone’s expectations, but to be happy he had to paint in his own way, an abstract one. 

Rosenstock’s biography is very successful, focusing on Kandinsky as a child and younger man.  She doesn’t speak down to children at all here, instead bringing them up to her level and demonstrating what abstract art is, showing the struggle of an artist trapped in the wrong life, and finally beautifully displaying what a life well-lived looks like.  She celebrates the transformation from lawyer to artist, from conventional to unique.  This book joyfully exposes how we are all different from one another and how those differences can be incredible if allowed to sing.

GrandPre’s art is glorious.  She shows what Kandinsky must have seen when hearing the opera and what he heard when the colors spoke to him.  The music of the paint box and the noises that emerged for him are shown in flourishes of sound, bringing Kandinsky’s synthethesia vividly to the page.  Her art is filled with motion when Kandinsky’s art is being expressed and then dims down to the staid and quiet when he is trying to conform.

Beautiful and choice, this picture book biography is one of the best.  Get this for elementary art classes, museum visits, and young artists.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Review: Winston & George by John Miller

winston george

Winston & George by John Miller, illustrated by Giuliano Cucco

Released March 21, 2014.

Winston is a crocodile and George is a crocodile bird, the kind of bird that cleans a crocodile’s skin.  The two of them would fish together in the river with George calling out when he saw a fish and Winston diving into the water to catch it.  Then they would share the meal together on shore.  But George had the bad habit of playing pranks on all of the crocodiles as well as on Winston.  The other crocodiles tell Winston to just eat George to end the problem, but Winston can’t eat his friend.  Then George takes a prank too far and puts Winston’s life in danger.  He has to convince the other crocodiles and animals to help, but at what price?

Written and illustrated 50 years ago, this picture book is finally being published.  Unfortunately, the illustrator died in 2006, so he did not live to see this work finally come to the public.  Happily though, the book is fresh and vibrant with a wonderful vintage feel that makes it feel like an immediate classic.  Miller’s words are simple and drive the story forward at a fast pace.  The ending is immensely satisfying and sharing it aloud one can expect cheers of joy and relief.

Cucco’s illustrations are superb.  They have a wonderful grace of line combined with bright tropical colors that pop on the page.  The dramatic moments of the book are captured with plenty of motion and action.  Best of all, the humor of the text translates directly into humor of image. 

A humorous and dramatic look at an unusual friendship, one only wishes that Winston & George could go on more adventures together.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.