Books by Benny Andrews

DRAW WHAT YOU SEE by Kathleen Benson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 6, 2015

"Indelible. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)"
African-American artist and arts activist Andrews was an outsider by birth and politics but not an outsider, or self-taught artist. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 15, 2006

"John Lewis was born at a time when the winds of change were blowing." The son of an Alabama sharecropper, Lewis was 15 when he heard Martin Luther King Jr. talking about the Montgomery bus boycott and realized "It was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up." By the time he went to college in Nashville, Tenn., Lewis was committed to the Civil Rights movement and was soon to be involved in every major event. In 1986, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Georgia. The writing here is dramatic, matching well Andrews's beautiful folk art-style illustrations, rendered in oils and fabric collage. The bibliography, however, consists only of two works by Lewis himself and an interview with him—no other works to root the subject in the larger historical perspective or to guide young readers to the growing number of fine works on the period. Still, this is an attractive portrait of a "living legend" and a good match with Delivering Justice (2006), also by Haskins and Andrews. (timeline) (Picture book. 7-12)Read full book review >
POETRY
Released: April 3, 2006

"So long, / so far away / is Africa. / Not even memories alive / Save those that history books create, / Save those that songs / Beat back into the blood." Selected and annotated by two authorities on the poet, these 26 short poems capture both the innovative rhythms and pervasive themes in the work of the most widely read African-American poet of his day—if not ever. Andrews's art captures its tone just as perfectly; his angular, dark-skinned figures look down reflectively even when dancing, and seem solitary even when placed among crowds. Readers will come away with a clear sense of Hughes's influences ("I too sing America" is a direct response to a Walt Whitman lyric) and distinct voice—as well as a powerful urge to look up the three-times-longer collection Dream Keeper (1994 edition illustrated by Brian Pinkney). (introduction, index, glossaries for each poem) (Poetry. 9+)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

The story of a boy who grew up to be one of Savannah's Civil Rights leaders is simply told and illustrated with striking oil-and-collage paintings. Jim Crow informed Westley Law's childhood, as he and his family endured the routine humiliation of segregation. From this beginning, he grew up to become a voters' rights activist with the NAACP, an activity that barred him from becoming a teacher; instead, he became a letter carrier, a perfect occupation, it turns out, for a grass-roots organizer. Haskins's understated text is divided into one-spread "chapters," a technique that helps to lead readers through the rather esoteric process of non-violence training and protest-organizing. These "chapters" are paired with Andrews's striking paintings, his elongated forms and elegant verticals underscoring the resoluteness of Law's protesters and the relative peacefulness of the change he was able to effect in Savannah, in dramatic contrast to much of the rest of the South. This pleasing treatment of one man's efforts to bring about seismic change is marred by a lack of documentation of quoted material, but is followed up with a biographical note. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)Read full book review >
PICTURES FOR MISS JOSIE by Sandra Belton
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2003

An African-American boy's success is demonstrated in this brief narrative that credits the supportive mentoring he received from a strong and disciplined educator. The young boy first meets Miss Josie when his father brings him to her home for an overnight stay. Her tall, imposing appearance is intimidating and makes the boy feel unsure of the purpose of his visit even as she introduces him to her capital city's famous monuments and symbols and encourages his interest in art by allowing him to draw while in her home. Several years later, when he's traveling to a summer camp and needs to change trains in Washington D.C., his father arranges a meeting with her in the station, but the boy's continued uneasiness prevails and he carefully avoids her before boarding the next train. College brings the now him to Washington once more. He agrees to one Sunday visit with Miss Josie, as he realizes her towering presence is no longer scary, but protective and inspiring, and a new learning relationship and lasting friendship develop. The years pass, bringing graduation, marriage, and a son. Miss Josie, while physically older and increasingly slower and deafer, maintains a strong influence in the new father's life and the cycle continues when he introduces his own boy to the woman who urged him to follow his artistic dream. Belton bases this gracious, gentle-hearted story on a real person. Andrews employs an elongated style in full-color collage and oil paints that highlights Miss Josie's statuesque and eloquent figure against a bright and vibrant background. A fine tribute. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
THE HICKORY CHAIR by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

In this loving, warmly sentimental tale an old man fondly remembers his childhood days with his grandmother. Louis may be blind but that doesn't stop him from sniffing out Gran, with her bleach-and-lilac scent, wherever she may be hiding, or playing "touch your nose" with her and a mirror, or listening to her "molasses voice" as she reads aloud, sitting in a favorite hickory chair. When Gran dies, Louis's family gathers to reminisce, and learns from her will that she's hidden notes in the possessions she wanted specific people to have. Endowed with what Gran always called "blind sight," Louis proves best at finding those notes—but not one is addressed to him. Given the option to pick anything he'd like to keep, he chooses the chair. Restrained colors and upright, elongated figures give both feelings of dignity and intimacy to Andrews's (Sky Sash So Blue, 1998) paint and fabric tableaux; facial features are shadowed or indistinct, but the body language clearly expresses the warmth and respect with which this family is bound. On a sweet closing note, the aging Louis finds his own youngest grandchild asleep in that hickory chair, her fist around an old, long-lost message that had been hidden in the padding for so many years. It says that the chair is meant to be his, of course, as he knew all along. A fine story with a theme seldom visited. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
SKY SASH SO BLUE by Libby Hathorn
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 1998

A fine picture book from Hathorn and Andrews: The text, a poem, is provoking and challenging, with a pulsing lyric understatement, while the superb artwork is composed of a collage of fabric snips painted in subtly harmonious, unctuous color. A mother and her two daughters are slaves on a plantation. The action involves the cobbling together from cloth fragments a wedding dress for the older daughter, Sissy ("A scrap of net, outrageous, light/Round Sissy's neck, this flimsy tie./Susannah laughs at the very sight,/Her sister looks so pleased, so shy"), who is to be married to John Bee, a free man. They gather almost all that they need, but for the back panel, which miraculously appears when the lady from the Big House wants a sheet cut up for dusters. The dress completed, the mother presides at the wedding (a preacher has been disallowed by the missus, which, as if the dress were not enough, will give young readers a taste of a slave's life), and while there is great happiness, the couple must part: John returns to his work to earn money toward buying Sissy's freedom. The dress is taken apart, returned to dusters, but that it was made at all is nothing short of inspirational. When Sissy finally leaves, the sadness of her mother and Susannah is tempered by the thought of a new dress, a waiting dress, for Sissy's child, to be born free. Through it all runs Susannah's sky blue sash, a simple but talismanic scarf, a vehicle to express love, generosity, remembrance, and the tie that binds. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9) Read full book review >