A child-friendly introduction to an iconic, wonderfully accessible and quintessentially Canadian artist.

A BRUSH FULL OF COLOUR

“Painting is the last great freedom. You can paint what you like.”

Born in northern England in 1926, Harrison began his career as a classically trained painter who eagerly embraced the freedom of post–World War II military service in India, Africa, Malaysia and New Zealand. Propelled by his youthful love of Jack London, he accepted a teaching position in northern Alberta, moving his family there in the late 1960s. In the clear, Canadian light, he soon adopted a vivid palette to portray a new, northern vision of vast skies, low horizons, luminous aurora borealis, vivid sunrises and sunsets. His work featured First Nations totemic imagery and large bands of color. His forms became organic, and strikingly simple figures and buildings were now strongly outlined in black. After a slow start, his work became increasingly popular, and he began illustrating children’s books in the 1980s, including two by another childhood favorite, Robert Service (The Cremation of Sam McGee, 1986, and The Shooting of Dan McGrew, 1988). Abundantly illustrated, the generally lively text is accessible and well-paced, and (thankfully) the didactic asides and discussion prompts are relegated to the paintings’ captions. Backmatter includes a helpful index and related books, websites and films.

A child-friendly introduction to an iconic, wonderfully accessible and quintessentially Canadian artist. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-927485-63-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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