Tag: art

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.

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

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The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (InfoSoup)

Released January 31, 2017.

Three children in Harlem set out to solve a mystery. Jin, who has grown up in her adopted grandparents bodega, longs for some adventure to spice up her days. Alex is a girl who won’t talk about her family or her circumstances. She spends her days doing good deeds and working to feed those less fortunate. Elvin isn’t from Harlem, but has been sent there to stay with his grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandfather was attacked and is now hospitalized. The three start to investigate what happened to him and along the way discover a mystery of the art scene in Harlem and the dangers of developers to the small businesses that make Harlem so special. Along the way, the three discover real friendship, learn about their community and make a personal difference themselves.

Tarpley’s writing offers just enough background to inform and keeps it brief enough that the pace never slows. She handles the pacing deftly throughout the novel, allowing just enough time to catch your breath before the speed picks up again. The setting of Harlem is brought fully to life, both today’s Harlem and the Harlem of the 1960s. The setting is vital to the story and readers get to fully explore the sights, sounds and vibrancy of this neighborhood.

Tarpley has cast her book with many diverse characters and I’m very pleased to see them shown on the cover. The three main characters are all individual and unique, bringing their own skills and knowledge to the quest to solve the mystery. I appreciated that they didn’t always get along and that their viewpoints were different enough to create issues that were addressed in the story. The villains of the story are also wonderfully evil, adding a great deal of satisfaction as their roles are made clear.

An incredible debut novel that offers a winning diverse cast and a rich look at Harlem. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (InfoSoup)

The son of Polish immigrants, Ezra Jack Keats grew up in poverty in Brooklyn. Early in his life, Ezra followed his dream of being an artist. As an 8 year old, he earned money painting store signs. His father worried about this dream, but also helped by bringing home partially used paint from the artists at the cafe he worked at. Ezra was encouraged at school by teachers and at the library by librarians. Just as Ezra was about to leave for art school, his father died. He thought his artist dream was gone, but then during the Great Depression the New Deal emerged with The Art School League. It was then that he discovered what would be the beginning of The Snowy Day, but World War II would intervene before that dream could come true.

Pinkney’s poem sings on the page, telling the story of how an image can create real magic, just like the snow that inspired it too. She writes with real passion about poverty, the transformation that snow brings to poor neighborhoods, the delight of creation, the wonder of art and the long path it takes to bring a story to life sometimes. Pinkney’s words are magic, dashing and reacting along with the reader, swirling like snowflakes against your cheeks.

The illustrations by Fancher and Johnson are wonderful. Done in collage and paint, they capture Brooklyn as a clear setting and the hardship of Keats life enlivened by art. They then go on to inspire new thoughts of snowflakes and snow as they pay homage to The Snowy Day.

Perfect for fans of The Snowy Day, this picture book speaks to the power of art in one’s life and the way that one man’s dreams have inspired generations to dream too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

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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.

 

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

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Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King (InfoSoup)

Sarah has stopped going to high school after an event that she doesn’t want to talk about or even think about. Sarah is a master at not thinking about certain things, like what she witnessed on vacation in Mexico with her family. Instead Sarah thinks about things like doing something original and what art is. She spends her days on the streets of Philadelphia, visiting a derelict school building, speaking with past and future versions of herself, and wondering about art and how to start creating again. She isn’t able to continue keeping the secrets deep inside hidden even from herself. So she begins to work through her thoughts, ideas and what she has seen. She contacts the brother that she hasn’t seen since the Mexico trip six years before and begins to wake up to the problems that have always been there in her family.

My goodness, this book is impossible to explain in a single paragraph. It is multilayered book that shifts and grows and builds underneath the reader as Sarah’s memories are revealed. It is wild and powerful, the tornado in the title an apt image for the rawness of this book. King depicts the dangers of living lies, whether they are built by those who say they love you or yourself. The force of those lies, the determination it takes to keep them hidden, and the emptiness of the world shaped by those lies make for a landscape that filled with traps and danger. King is a master at allowing a character to tell her own story at her own pace while making sure that the book continues to move forward, building tension upward and showing the deep humanity inside.

Sarah is an exquisite character. She is an enigma for the first part of the book, since she is determined to keep the lies spinning and not allow the truth to escape into the world. She is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, one that becomes more reliable as the book continues. Yet even as she is unreliable, she is completely relatable. Her pain is tangible on the page, her loneliness is palpable. It is in hiding her real truth and living the lie that she becomes most human.

A powerful novel filled with pain, lies, guilt and searing truth. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers.

 

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding, illustrated by Claire Fletcher (InfoSoup)

Josette lives in 1920s Paris with her toy rabbit, Pepette. At home, their great room’s walls were covered with paintings of the family, including Josette and her sisters as well as their dog. But there was no picture of Pepette! So the two of them set off to Montmartre where the best artists painted. Josette finds one famous painter after another to paint her toy bunny, but none of the paintings is quite right. Picasso gives the bunny too many ears and noses. Salvador Dali makes him too droopy. Chagall has Pepette flying in the clouds. Matisse painted him in the wrong colors. Finally, Josette heads home, realizing that it is up to her to create an appropriate portrait of her beloved rabbit.

Lodding’s glimpse of the wonder of Paris and the incredible artists at work all at once at Montmartre is very enticing. It will help for the adults reading the book to guide children through the artists afterwards, allowing them to understand who the artists were and how their signature styles are reflected in their portraits of Pepette. It is a lovely introduction to those painters for young children and may be ideal before a visit to a museum. Josette herself is a wonderful young character as well, showing real determination to get the right portrait of her toy and yet also showing respect to the artists and their unique vision.

The watercolor illustrations by Fletcher are a huge success. They have their own artistic quality and also capture the styles of the other artists as well. The watercolors have a vintage style that works particularly well in showing 1920s Paris, allowing the light to play across the colors of the city where Josette stands out with her red bow, polka dot dress and striped stockings.

A lovely historical picture book that invites readers to explore Paris and art. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Bee Books.

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, illustrated by Sophie Casson (InfoSoup)

Told from the point of view of a child in Arles, France, this book looks at how unique people in the world have their own way of viewing things. The boy joins with the adults in the town to mock and bully painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was seen as a wild man, living in poverty who wasted his days creating art that didn’t sell and that went against everything that people knew about art. Yet he just kept on painting. The boy eventually finds himself in a field with the artist, suddenly seeing the world as something amazing and vibrantly colored rather than the same place it has always been. The artist offered the boy his painting but the boy refused, only to see it years later on the wall of a museum.

Peacock has created a picture book about bullying but also about so much more. It is about the way that society reacts to a genius who refuses to follow their rules, who walks his own path through the fields, painting as he goes. The child is clearly following what the adults around him are saying. He is also intrigued in many ways by the strange artist and the way he lives. Plus he is drawn in by the paintings that he can glimpse. It’s a lovely balance of rejection and attraction that makes the book surprising and effective.

The art by Casson uses vibrant colors to capture the French countryside. The golden of the wheat fields, the purple of the sky, all tied together with reds and blues and add depth and even more color. The result is a different style than Van Gogh, but a nod to his use of color and sense of freedom.

A book that works on many levels, this picture book looks at bullying, genius, art and the power of connection. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.