An artist’s moving story paired with his paintings.

Flight of the Mind... A Painter's Journey Through Paralysis

An art book chronicling the relationship between disability and creativity in one painter’s career.

Artist Thomas’ debut book, an oversized hardcover complete with full-page reproductions of his work and other accompanying images, will be right at home on many coffee tables. Thomas, who was rendered quadriplegic in a skiing accident at 26 and learned to paint by manipulating a brush with his mouth, mostly recreates scenes from the natural world he has always loved: flowers, shells, landscapes and, as his title suggests, a wide variety of birds. (The odd plane also reveals Thomas’ longstanding preoccupation with flight and passion for building model planes prior to his accident.) Thomas is a representative painter; his images are marked by a vivid color palette and a sense of detail so meticulously wrought his paintings sometimes approach a photographic realism. This said, he may be at his most affecting when he dabbles in portraiture or when his naturalistic works include some fantastic or fanciful element. In the painting Fishing Stories, for instance, the line between the real and the represented blurs—a painted fishing kit containing a small man and boat rests on an easel, but the kit’s strap then extends past the edge of the canvas to hang over the easel. It’s a slyly puzzling visual that suggests the exaggeration and truth-bending so common in fishing stories. Throughout the book, Thomas’ images are contextualized by Johnson’s written narrative, which traces Thomas’ life story from his active boyhood through the transformative experience of disability. With a journalistic but intimate tone, Johnson brings Thomas, his family and his wife, Anne, into vivid detail—not unlike a Thomas painting itself. The art and the text, which share a heartfelt wonder at the world and its occurrences, are well-paired, though more cynical readers may find this quality cloying.

An artist’s moving story paired with his paintings.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1938417047

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Lydia Inglett Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2014

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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