Tag: artists

Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins

Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins (9781481459051)

Edmonia Lewis was the first professional African-American sculptor. She lived and worked in the period right after the Civil War. This verse novel takes the little information known about Edmonia and fills in the gaps with what may have happened. Edmonia attended Oberlin College, one of the first colleges to accept women and people of color. Half Objibwe and half African-American, Edmonia struggles to find her place at Oberlin. When she is accused by other students of poisoning and theft she is forced to leave college despite being acquitted of all charges. The book follows Edmonia as she moves to Boston and eventually Italy, becoming a successful sculptor.

This is an exceptional verse novel. Each poem reads like a stand-alone poem and yet also fits into Edmonia’s complete story. Atkins uses rich and detailed language to convey the historical times right after the Civil War to the reader. She also works to share the real soul of Edmonia herself on the page, a girl who has given up the freedom of life with the Ojibwe to study art at a prestigious college only to have it all fall apart again and again. It is a lesson in resilience and the power of art that Edmonia continues to strive to become the artist she truly is despite all of the odds.

This book reads like a series of stunning pieces of art, strung together into a larger display. The use of language is so beautifully done, carefully crafted with skill and depth. Atkins uses the few details of Edmonia’s life to craft a real person of flesh, bone and dreams on the page. Throughout the book, care is taken that no one forget the historical times the book takes place during and their impact on Edmonia as a person of color.

Timely and simply amazing, this verse novel is uplifting and deeply moving. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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.

 

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.

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (InfoSoup)

Louise grew up alongside a river that wove through her life. Her mother restored tapestries and from age 12, Louise helped too by drawing in the missing bottom edges of tapestries. At her mother’s side, Louise learned about weaving and patterns. Louise eventually went to school in Paris and studied mathematics and cosmography at university. While at college, her mother died and Louise turned to art to express her feelings. She created enormous spiders out of metal and stone, naming them “Maman.” She took the fabrics of her life and cut them apart, working to put them back together in new ways. It was a tribute to her mother and her childhood expressed in art.

Novesky’s picture book biography keeps the magic of Bourgeois’ childhood intact. The book ends with an image of the artist and one of her spiders as well as a quote that speaks to her never having lost touch with the magic of her childhood. That quality weaves throughout the book where both the river and the restoration work create moments of inspiration and amazement. There is such beauty in the quiet work of restoration as well as the knitting activities of spiders. Readers will immediately understand the connection of wool and web in her art.

Arsenault’s illustrations are alight with that same magic and inspiration. In one image of Louise’s mother, there is a certain spider-ness there, subtle but also clear as she works with her black wool. All of the illustrations in the book celebrate pattern and weaving. There is a limited palette of reds, blues and grays that evoke the richness of tapestries and the excitement of art.

A top pick for picture book biographies, this book pays homage to a female artist that many may not know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

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.

 

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon (InfoSoup)

Enter the artistic process of graphic-novel author Sara Varon. Here you will see short comic stories, some done as exercises, essays and journal entries. Varon introduces each piece, sharing that she is always at least one of the characters in each of her stories. Each story has the charm and wit that one expects from a book by Varon, here is bite-sized pieces that allow readers to meet even more adorable animal characters. There are cats who long to fly, stories based on alphabet exercises, bee keeping information, swimming pools, and much much more. This is a world worth visiting multiple times!

Varon’s art is almost wordless, the characters showing much  more than telling all that they do. Varon plays with the cells of the graphic novel, breaking the walls between them by handing cups across the lines in one story and in another showing both above and below the water at the same time. She is consistently gently funny and smart in all of these stories. There is a beautiful familiarity to her work, it is at once quirky and cozy and creates worlds where one wants to exist.

Readers will find a lot to love here, whether they are reading it as future artists and authors themselves or because they love Varon’s work. Varon shows the growth of her own work as the book progresses, and also shows how from the very start she was true to her own style and vision. The collection is empowering and fresh.

The author of Robot Dreams and Odd Duck shows a back-stage view of her work, inviting young readers into her creative process. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.