Please welcome author Sandra Neil Wallace with her list of 10 Diverse Picture Books on Fine Artists.
We are giving away 2 signed copies of her latest book, Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
Art is for everyone and artists come from everywhere. But that’s rarely reflected in picture book biographies & autobiographies for young readers. Kids know a lot about Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe, and Henri Matisse. Now they’ll learn about other iconic artists who broke barriers of race, age, and physical ability with these diverse picture books featuring the inspiring lives of 10 fine artists.
10 Diverse Picture Books on Fine Artists
10. Teju Behan, self-taught artist and illustrator
Drawing from the City by Teju Behan
“They call me Teju … I feel at home indoors as well as outdoors, and my favorite place is near the stream that runs behind our hut.”
I absolutely love the intimacy and purity of this unconventional autobiography by Indian artist Teju Behan. With gripping candor, Teju recounts her artistic journey from a childhood in rural India, to the city of Mumbai where Teju and her family must find work to survive. Teju’s odyssey will open wide a window for children unfamiliar with the devotional life of the man she marries, who sings religious songs in return for food and how this old world occupation falls out of favor, and both he and Teju find a new life through art. Each page of Teju’s black ink drawings on brown, handmade paper are works of art and an ode to the power of transformation and art as a soulful experience. [picture book, age 10 and up]
9. Maud Lewis, self-taught folk artist
Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Mark Lang
“Maud painted for hours straight, supporting her painting hand with the other.”
Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis sought and found joy in her life. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and ostracized by her classmates and often by her husband, Maud discovered joy in painting. While the act of painting proved painful with her gnarled fingers, her jubilant attitude shines through. With no money for art supplies, Maud used the walls of her one-room house as a canvas or discarded scraps of wood. Bogart’s straightforward text and Lang’s black and white sketches provide the perfect backdrop for Maud’s colorful paintings that make this picture book a treasure: cheerful scenes of kids playing in the snow and riding through bright red covered bridges in horse-drawn sleighs. [picture book, age 8 and up]
8. Jean-Michel Basquiat, graffiti artist and Neo-Expressionist painter
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
“He refuses to sleep until he has created a masterpiece.”
This Caldecott and Coretta Scott King winning biography about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is told through the adoring lens of author/illustrator Javaka Steptoe. He pays homage to his artistic hero by framing Basquiat’s story with jaw-dropping wood-painted illustrations infused with Basquiat’s style. Steptoe makes the wise choice of showing the many aspects of Basquiat’s life growing up in Brooklyn before his meteoric rise to art immortality. That includes Basquiat’s complex relationship with his Puerto Rican mother, Matilde, who battled with mental illness, but also kick-started her son’s art style with a book called Gray’s Anatomy while Basquiat recovered in the hospital after a car accident. Steptoe leaves Basquiat’s own struggle with drug addiction for the back matter of the book. [picture book, age 6 and up]
7. Frida Kahlo, self-taught Magic Realist artist
Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra
“She lived in a house the color of a parrot’s bright-blue feather.”
By focusing on the animals in the life of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, author Monica Brown gives us a fresh perspective on one of the world’s most beloved artists. Relating Kahlo’s creativity and style to the personality and physical traits of her pets instantly draws in young readers and the absorbing concept is carried over to the backmatter, where we get to see a real photo of Kahlo with one of her spider monkeys. Parra’s knock-out illustrations bounce off the page with color and style all their own. A thoroughly engaging and innovative biography that will be read again and again. [picture book, age 4 and up]
6. Horace Pippen, self-taught folk and contemporary artist
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
“Pictures just come to my mind … and I tell my heart to go ahead.”
Resilience and innovation resonate in this Sibert-honor winning biography of African American folk artist Horace Pippin. Pippin’s incredible life spanned two world wars. While serving in World War 1, Pippin sustained a hand injury when a bullet tore through his shoulder. It might have ended his artistic career, but Pippin’s determination to continue his craft meant that he taught himself to paint again and on new surfaces, like wood. An innovative and heart-warming story of an American master that is rich in historical details and dialogue. [picture book, age 5 and up]
5. José Guadalupe Posada, cartoonist and printmaker
Funny Bones, Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh
“The skeleton figures are not scary–in fact, they look as if they’re having fun. They are the creation of José Guadalupe Posada.”
We learn about the life of Mexican political cartoonist and printmaker José Guadalupe Posada through his invention of calaveras—a kind of set of skeleton action figures most famous during Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Posada used these playful skeletons to make political statements during the Mexican Revolution. Splashed across posters throughout Mexico, it was the most powerful and safest way to criticize politicians in an age without social media or mass communication. Tonatiuh cleverly provides many entries into the art of printmaking and other techniques of Posada’s by weaving diagrams on how to use these techniques into the narrative. A helpful glossary ensures readers learn about key terms in Mexican folklore. Dynamic renderings of Posada’s calaveras, plus Tonatiuh’s unmistakable style add to the uniqueness of this award-winning biography. [picture book, age 6 and up]
4. Maya Lin, sculptor and architect
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
“Maya sculpted a model with mashed potatoes, then with clay.”
Harvey’s spare text about the life of Maya Lin lets the designs and creativity of Lin shine as we learn about Lin’s bold background: from her immigrant parents who fled persecution in China, to Lin’s courage to enter the design contest for the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial. While her entry wins and judges shower praise on its design, attitudes shift once they discover that Lin is a college student. They want her design changed, but Lin doesn’t back down. In the end, of course, Lin’s original design becomes a hugely popular tribute that brings comfort and dignity to the lives of Vietnam Veterans and all Americans. [picture book, age 4 and up]
3. Tyree Guyton, urban environmental artist
Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J.H Shapiro and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
“Tyree dipped into Grandpa’s cans of color, sloshing purple, slapping yellow, aiming his brush like a magic wand.”
This empowering story of taking control and reclaiming the beauty of your own neighborhood is woven into the story of Tyree Guyton. He transformed his Detroit street–Heidelberg Street–by leading an art initiative known as the Heidelberg Project. Guyton created an interactive sculpture park that epitomizes the power of art and of seeing it in surprising objects, repurposed into pieces of beauty. [picture book, age 5 and up]
2. Yayoi Kusama, contemporary artist
Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity by Sarah Suzuki, illustrated by Ellen Weinstein
“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.”
When Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama turned ten years of age, she imagined the world covered in dots. The vision stayed with her as she grew up and it defined her artistic style. Polka dots and nets became the motifs that Kusama exclusively painted and sculpted. She was so devoted to the dot that Kusama wore them, too, becoming her art by donning dresses freckled with dots that spilled onto identically-designed wallpaper backdrops. Young readers will marvel at the eyepopping effect of Kusama’s dots covering both her and her striking art pieces. [picture book, age 8 and up]
1. Ernie Barnes, Neo-Mannerist painter
Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier
‘“Hey, Barnes!” the coach yelled. “You could be great if only you would get that art out of your head!”’
In the sports world, Ernie Barnes is known as one of the greatest artists of all time. His paintings of Black Americans in the 1970s brought the kinetic beauty of daily life to the canvas, sparking a cultural revolution and inspiring a generation of artists and illustrators. Yet growing up in the segregated South meant that Ernie wasn’t welcome at art museums. That didn’t stop him from majoring in art at college or his parents from surrounding him with art. Ernie was also both creative and athletic. And it’s this multi-faceted life that I aimed to convey in Between the Lines. Ernie didn’t believe in having to choose one thing in life. And he never lost sight of his artistic dream, finding a pathway to it by playing pro football. Bryan Collier became an illustrator because of Ernie Barnes, and Collier’s watercolors and collage bring deep, emotional heft to this biography about his role model. [picture book, age 4 and up]
2 Signed Book Giveaway of Between the Lines
We are giving away 2 signed copies of her latest book, Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Sandra Neil Wallace is an author and advocate for change. Known for her investigative journalism and original narrative style, her books for young readers focus on people who break barriers and change the world. The daughter of a refugee and concentration camp survivor, Sandra broke a gender barrier in sports as the first woman to host an NHL broadcast on national TV. Her books have been selected as ALA Notable books, the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best”, and awarded Booklist’s Editors’ Choice, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. She became a U.S. citizen in 2016 and is a founding member of the Keene (NH) Immigrant and Refugee Partnership and an advisor to the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College. Find her on twitter: SandraNWallace and at www.sandraneilwallace.com
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