Tag: art

4 Diverse Biographies of Women

Here are four of my top picks for picture book biographies. They just happen to be about exceptional diverse women.

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh (9781419725326)

When Amalia saw the dancers in her town square as a child, she knew that she wanted to be a dancer. She studied ballet and modern dance but always remembered those folk dancers from her childhood. Amalia traveled throughout Mexico, watching the different folk dances in different regions. She used her dancing and choreography skills to turn those dances into performances for the stage. Founding her own dance company, she became known throughout the world.

Tonatiuh uses his signature illustration style that is a delightful mix of folk images and modern edge. The illustrations are a match for the topic, each strengthening the other. He writes of the large amount of work and dedication that Hernández had as well as the vision she carried through her entire life of folk dance and its importance. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (9780735842694)

This picture book biography focuses on Frida Kahlo’s lifelong relationship with animals. As a child she had a blue parrot, the color of the home she grew up in. She also had a fawn and a cat. But when Frida was six, she got very ill and had to stay in bed for a long time. Her illness caused one of her legs to be different from the other, but once she was better it didn’t slow her down at all. Frida also had an eagle, two monkeys, two turkeys and three dogs. Her animals had a place in their garden to play, designed by Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband. As she painted, her animals stayed around her and appeared in her self portraits.

Brown uses the animals in Kahlo’s life to point out specific characteristics of her personality, each tied to a specific pet. This strengthens Kahlo’s already strong connection to her animals and makes it more clear for the reader as well. Parra’s illustrations are done on board. They have an appealing combination of organic feel, connection to nature and folk images. An appealing and unique look at Frida Kahlo. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (E-galley received from Netgalley and NorthSouth Books.)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (9781419725593)

This picture book biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows her intelligence from childhood onward. With a mother who loved books and reading, Ruth was raised to go to college in a time when most women did not attend. Ruth’s mother passed away the day she graduated high school and never saw her daughter head to Cornell and then on to law school. Along the way, Ruth noticed all of the inequities around her, towards minorities and women. She experienced some of the directly: having her pay slashed when pregnant and being barred from the Law Library at Harvard because she was a woman. With the fight for equality for women, Ruth became the most important female attorney in the nation as she argued before the Supreme Court. Eventually, she would become the second female court justice and the author of some of the most powerful dissents in the Court’s history.

This picture book starts with Ruth’s childhood and the importance of her mother and also ends that way. Throughout it is a celebration of the power of women and the importance of their roles and their voices. Winter writes with a strong sense of history and shows both the possibilities there are in the world and also what hard work it takes to get there. The illustrations by Innerst have a quirky historical quality to them with watercolor but also a distinct modern twist as well. This is a strong biography of Ginsburg and her importance to the entire country. Appropriate for ages 7-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter (9781481446693)

Growing up in Iraq, Zaha Hadid saw all of the natural features around her: rivers, marches, sand dunes, and more. As a child, she dreamed of creating her own cities. She designed her own clothes. In school in London, Hadid learned more about cities and architecture. She opened her own studio, designing buildings without corners that echoed the natural features of her homeland. Even after winning an architectural contest, her buildings don’t get built. But she refuses to change or stop designing. Eventually, her buildings gain attention and are built around the world. Her studio grows and gets busier. Even after she passes away, her ideas and designs and the work of her studio continue.

Winter has a gorgeous way with biographies, keeping them brief enough for even preschool audiences but detailed enough to intrigue and to speak to the individual and their life. Look in the back of the book for information on where her buildings are located in the world. The illustrations, also by Winters, capture the soaring spirit of Hadid’s designs and their unique vision. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane.)

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (9780062290137, Amazon)

No one knows that Eliza, a senior in high school, is the creator of the immensely popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea. She spends her days at school working on art for the comic and trying to be invisible. Then a new boy, Wallace, comes to her school. He has the looks of a football player, but doesn’t seem to say much at all, instead spending his time writing. Eliza soon learns that he is a major fan of her webcomic. As their friendship grows and starts to turn into a romance, the two of them do most of their communicating through texts, online chat and written notes. Eliza has to decide whether to share her secret of being the creator of Monstrous Sea with Wallace or whether she can stay anonymous much longer.

Zappia’s writing is completely captivating. She writes with a lovely confidence, telling the story of an introverted young creator with grace and understanding. Her characters are deeply human, struggling with real trauma and finding their safe place in communities online where they can be authentic and original. She speaks to the power of art and creativity in your life, making something that you can’t stop creating and having others find value in it too. Still, there is a tipping point where fans’ expectations can become too much and overwhelm the creative process. Zappia shows how mental distress can be dealt with and progress forward can be made, slowly.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this book, though there are many great elements is Zappia’s portrayal of introverts. There is a coziness here, a feeling of safety in the pages, as if they are forming a critical spot for introverts to bloom, just like an online community. The book shows how introverts may be awkward but are also incredibly creative, thoughtful and deep people who just need their home and dog to recharge sometimes, alright often. The book allows Eliza and Wallace to steadily use online tools to communicate and learn about one another, building their relationship with honesty and humor.

Get this in the hands of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge (9780316303118, Amazon)

Two balls of clay meet one another and then are formed by an artist into an owl and a wolf. The two are left alone and quickly discover that they are able to change their own shapes as they like. They rapidly change from one form to another, elephants and peanuts, things big, small, flat and sharp. As the artist returns, the two balls of clay try to remember what they had originally been shaped as but don’t quite get it right. So back they go into a wolf and an owl and then eventually into balls of clay. But they aren’t done playing yet!

The text of the book is entirely done in a dialogue between the two characters, so it is simple and easy. The result is a book done in photographs that reads much more like a comic with speech bubbles. There is a delight in the photos and the clay shapes, evoking claymation movies and the joy of childhood play with clay.

Throughout the book, there is lots of humor both in the dialogue and the shapes that the clay takes. The illustrations also incorporate the tools the artist uses to shape the clay, and the early pages of the book show an image of the set and photography equipment. The clay shapes are clever and funny, inviting readers to explore clay themselves and start to make friends through play.

A joyful look at friendship and creativity. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Renato and the Lion by Barbara DiLorenzo

Renato and the Lion by Barbara DiLorenzo

Renato and the Lion by Barbara DiLorenzo (9780451476418, Amazon)

Renato loves living in Florence, Italy. He particularly loves all of the art throughout the city, both in the museums and on the streets. His favorite statue is the stone lion in the piazza. As war approaches Florence, everything changes. Brick shelters are built around the statues to protect them. Renato wants to protect the lion and has a dream that the lion and his father helps him. Their family flees to the United States and Renato doesn’t return for many years. Has his lion been safe through war and time?

In her author’s note, DiLorenzo talks about how she has melded history and fiction together in this dreamy picture book. World War II did threaten Florence and they did protect the statues in this way. The lion statue exists, but Renato himself is fictional and the timeframe has been altered to work in the book. DiLorenzo’s prose is very readable and the story is immensely strong and well structured.

The art adds to the dreamy effect with the softness of the watercolors. The dream sequences are particularly nice, as they show even more of Florence than the story could have otherwise. Readers will love the lion as Renato does thanks to the wise and gentle look on its face.

The power of art and dreams come together in this wonderful historical picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781467798433, Amazon)

Niko loves to draw. He carries paper and colored pencils with him all the time because he is always finding new inspiration. But he doesn’t draw like other people. If he draws the ice cream truck, he’s actually trying to capture the sound of its bell. Instead of drawing the sun, he draws the feeling of it on his face. The image he makes of the robin building her nest is of the hard work, not the robin or the nest. No one seems to understand his pictures at all. But then he meets Iris, a new girl, who can understand the feelings he is showing on the page.

In his text, Raczka really shows how the mind of young artist works and the different way in which Niko sees and experiences and depicts his world. There is a feeling of isolation when people can’t see what he is trying to convey in his art. That moment soon passes though when Iris can connect with the art that Niko has created. There is a real heart to this book, shown through Niko himself and his connection to the world.

Shin’s illustrations help readers understand Niko better and the art too. Children will want to discuss what they feel when they see the abstract swirls of Niko’s art. Shin also shows a vibrant and bustling urban community where Niko gets all of his inspiration. Done in mixed media, digital and acrylics, the illustrations have a solidity that supports the looser illustrations that are Niko’s.

A welcome look at artistic process and imagination, this picture book also is about finding kindred spirits. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken  (9780735227927, Amazon)

One mistake in the drawing of a girl leads to new choices and changes. Making one eye bigger than the other was a mistake, so was making the other eye even bigger, but the glasses were a good idea. Other mistakes are covered by elbow patches and a lacy collar. Strange animals are turned into nice rocks. The girl with the long leg looks good climbing the tree. The other girl needs roller skates to fix the spacing with the ground. On and on, the mistakes continue showing the artistic process when you incorporate mistakes into your work rather than giving up, creating something really special.

Luyken demonstrates the way artists of all ages can use mistakes to inform their work rather than starting again or stopping altogether. The text is simple and funny, showing the frank acknowledgement of errors and then showing what good decisions can result out of the oops. The artistic process is on display here, inviting readers to explore their own artistic journeys.

The art plays a central role of course and the art is wonderfully quirky as characters emerge with lanky limbs, big eyes, and helmets. As the story pulls back from the central character, there is an intricate image filled with more children, fabric, ropes, ladders and balloons. The images pull back farther, showing even more of an inventive landscape in an unexpected place.

Creative, inviting and a gorgeous book to explore, this picture book will have everyone trying art even if they make mistakes. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

 

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

nightlights-by-lorena-alvarez

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez (9781910620137)

Released March 14, 2017.

At bedtime, the air in Sandy’s room fills with small lights that float in the air. When she catches one, she is transported to a fantasy world filled with beautiful creatures. During the day, those same creatures fill her drawings that she makes at her Catholic school. Then one day, a new girl approaches her and talks to her about her drawings. Her name is Morfie and no one else seems to know her. That night, Sandy is visited by a strange girl-like creature who changes what Sandy creates from the lights into something stranger and darker. Sandy continues to spend time with Morfie at school and gets help from her too. Morfie appears at Sandy’s home and suddenly her connections to the strange darkness is made clear. Now it is up to Sandy to outwit them with her creativity.

Alvarez has created a graphic novel that is abundant with creativity and beauty. While the world of Sandy’s imagination is exceptionally wondrous, the real life part also has small touches that make normal life seem special too. Sandy’s ride to and from school has interesting plants along the path that seem to come from her imaginative world rather than our own. These touches tie Sandy’s imagination into her real life experience very subtly.

The art in this graphic novel is filled with deep colors and wild creativity. There is a distinct anime appeal to the art, particularly in the characters themselves. The creatures in the light-filled imaginative world also have the playfulness of Pokemon about them as well as a gorgeous ethereal quality that floats on the page.

A dynamic and creative graphic novel for children, this one will light up readers’ imaginations. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Nobrow Press.