Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (InfoSoup)
Coretta Scott King Award winner, Steptoe has created a visual feast of a book about the remarkable artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The book shows Basquiat as a child who drew all day long, refusing to sleep until his art is complete. He wakes in the middle of the night, drawing things from his dreams onto paper. His Puerto Rican mother teaches him to see art all around him. They visit museums, the theater, read poetry and Basquiat learns about art and artists. Eventually, his mother’s mind breaks and she can no longer live at home. He visits her when he can and shows her his artwork. As a teenager, he lives with friends and spray paints art around the city. He mixes collage and paint, his art moving from the street and into galleries, fulfilling his dream of becoming a famous artist.
Young readers are not shown the dark part of the Basquiat’s life. That is revealed in the author note at the end of the book where Basquiat’s death at age 27 from his drug addiction is explained. The picture book focuses on the inspiration for his art, his dreams of fame and how he used his diverse urban landscape as inspiration for his art and his life.
Steptoe’s art pays homage to Basquiat. Done on boards where the seams are rough and form an organic pattern, the art is a mix of painting and collage. As he explains in a note about motifs, there are certain items that repeat in Basquiat’s art that readers can see echoed in the art in the book as well. The art is stunning, detailed and worth lingering over.
A luminously beautiful book about a passionate and gifted artist, this picture book shines. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from library copy.