Absorbing paintings carry this abbreviated story of George Mendoza, a blind runner and artist.
George Mendoza wants to play basketball when he grows up, but then he sees “the whole world painted red” and starts having headaches. A doctor tells him he is going blind, but he continues to see “flashing lights and brilliant colors”; a priest advises him to paint what he sees. Instead, Mendoza begins to run—so fast, writes Powers, that he goes to the Olympics twice, but she does not detail this feat. When his best friend dies, Mendoza finds purpose in painting (with brushes or fingers) his kaleidoscopic perception; these paintings appear throughout the book. His heavy, bold streaks and swirls of color depict key events, focusing his story in ways the short sentences supplemented by Morgan-Sanders’ minimalist line drawings cannot; it’s hard to look away from a swarm of blurry butterflies or a basketball hoop painted like a blazing eye. An author’s note provides greater (and more interesting) biographical detail, explaining how Mendoza went blind and specifying that he trained and placed in the Olympics for the Disabled in 1980 and 1984. It is too bad this information is not worked into the main text, since the author’s note is too complex for the younger audience to whom the main text caters.
Mendoza’s inspiring story is best understood through his eye-catching artwork, supplemented by the author’s note. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)