A boy finds ample artistic inspiration, but people find his artwork baffling.
Niko’s art has atypical subject matter. He is excited by “a mother bird building a nest.…Or the ice cream truck ring-a-linging down the street,” but he doesn’t draw the physical things he sees. He draws the robin’s hard work and the ice cream truck’s sound. “Where’s the robin?” asks his teacher, and then, puzzled, “So this is the nest?” Niko tries to explain: “It’s not the nest. It’s her hard work.” Similarly, the kids find neither ice cream truck nor bell in his picture, because “It’s not the bell. It’s the ring-a-ling.” Even his parents don’t get it. His drawing of “the warm of the sun on my face” elicits the question, “Where’s your face?” “It’s not my face. It’s the warm,” Niko says, dejected. While Shin’s child-style portrayals of Niko’s abstract drawings wouldn’t be definable by readers without Niko’s explanation, that’s hardly the point; the point is finding one person who appreciates his abstract work—a new neighbor—and Niko’s freedom to draw nonrepresentationally. The mixed-media illustrations, which include digital rendering and acrylic paint, are gentle and two-dimensional; their colors lean toward tertiaries and blue-grays. Niko has ruddy pink skin and black hair; his dad is brown-skinned, and his mom is probably Asian.
Conceptual and thoughtful, like Niko’s own pieces. (Picture book. 5-9)