JUST BEING DALÍ

Comedic details, invented dialogue, and cartoonish portrayals tilt this account to the blithely lighthearted.

Following on Cézanne’s Parrot (2020), Guglielmo and Helquist reunite for a buoyant, kid-friendly distillation of Salvador Dalí’s life and art.

Focusing on Dalí’s boyhood impulses—exploration, imagination, doodling at school—the narrative quickly establishes the iconoclastic artist as an early irritant to his father, peers, and teacher. The reiterated complaint “Why can’t you…?” is rejoined with variations on the titular refrain: “But Salvador was just being himself.” A fortuitous convalescence with a painter’s family sparked Dalí’s avid artistic path. He entered a Madrid art academy, where boredom with technical mastery provoked rebellion and expulsion. A move to Paris engendered artistic experimentation, and Dalí found his compatriots, the early surrealists. Helquist here inserts painted thumbnails of works by famous peers: Magritte, Arp, Ernst, Ray, and Miró. His double-page spreads utilize clouds as conduits for playful imagery that aligns with Dalí’s intensely original imagination. The narrative follows Dalí and Gala, his lover and muse, back to Spain, then forth to the U.S., where the success of the small painting The Persistence of Memory (seen viewed by a diverse group of museumgoers) launched decades of fame for the prolific White artist. Guglielmo details some of Dalí’s increasingly sensational capers, which led the European surrealists finally to expel him. The result is to reduce Dalí’s work in design, collaboration, and what would today be seen as brand-building to antics that displeased critics but earned Dalí fans. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

Comedic details, invented dialogue, and cartoonish portrayals tilt this account to the blithely lighthearted. (author’s note, selected bibliography, source notes, featured works of art) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984816-58-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

FRIDA KAHLO AND HER ANIMALITOS

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist.

Frida Kahlo’s strong affection for and identification with animals form the lens through which readers view her life and work in this picture-book biography.

Each two-page spread introduces one or more of her pets, comparing her characteristics to theirs and adding biographical details. Confusingly for young readers, the beginning pages reference pets she owned as an adult, yet the illustrations and events referred to come from earlier in her life. Bonito the parrot perches in a tree overlooking young Frida and her family in her childhood home and pops up again later, just before the first mention of Diego Rivera. Granizo, the fawn, another pet from her adult years, is pictured beside a young Frida and her father along with a description of “her life as a little girl.” The author’s note adds important details about Kahlo’s life and her significance as an artist, as well as recommending specific paintings that feature her beloved animals. Expressive acrylic paintings expertly evoke Kahlo’s style and color palette. While young animal lovers will identify with her attachment to her pets and may enjoy learning about the Aztec origins of her Xolo dogs and the meaning of turkeys in ancient Mexico, the book may be of most interest to those who already have an interest in Kahlo’s life.

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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