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UNBOUND by Joyce Scott


The Life + Art of Judith Scott

by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler & Melissa Sweet ; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Pub Date: June 8th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-525-64811-6
Publisher: Knopf

Scott reminisces about her twin sister, an artist with Down syndrome.

Growing up, Joyce and Judy are “each other’s world.” When Joyce starts kindergarten, Judy is diagnosed with Down syndrome and a weak heart. Doctors say she won’t get better, but Joyce knows her sister is “perfect just the way she is.” To help her learn to speak, her parents send Judy to a special school, and Joyce’s world is “replaced with the colors of gone.” Judy lives in the grim institution until adulthood. Now her sister’s guardian, Scott is stunned to discover that she has been deaf since childhood. Appalled she’s been denied education, Scott enrolls her twin at an Oakland art studio for adults with disabilities. There, Judy Scott finds a passion: creating sculptures from fibers and found objects. For years, Judy Scott expresses herself through art…until, the day after she makes a small, black piece unlike her usual colorful work and gives her sister her magazine collection, she dies of heart failure in author Scott’s arms. It’s bittersweet that she’s “celebrated as a great artist” after her death. Co-written with Spangler and Sweet, Scott’s prose poetically conveys the sisters’ strong bond; Sweet’s nuanced, eye-catching illustrations mimic Judy Scott’s eclectic artwork with vivid colors and bristling collages while depicting the sisters’ love with soft hues. However, the focus, perhaps by necessity, is on the author’s relationship with and feelings about her sister, throwing Judy Scott’s isolated upbringing into sharp relief and rendering her story as disquieting as it is triumphant. The Scott sisters present White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet yet troubling account of sisterhood and the power of art.

(timeline, photos, author's note, illustrator's note, sources, resources) (Picture book/biography. 4-6)