Not even the thrill of football could dissuade Ernie Barnes from pursuing his artistic dream.
Born in 1938 in Durham, North Carolina, Ernie grew up a quiet kid in an African-American family with a mother who exposed her children to music and art despite the segregation of museums and performance halls. While his 6-foot-3-inch frame in high school prompted the football coach to recruit him, Ernie never felt as passionately about football as he did about art. He would sit on the bench and sketch the plays anytime he wasn’t on the field, which his coaches did not always appreciate. When Ernie’s successful professional football career slowed, he approached the American Football League (which merged with the National Football League in 1970) to become their official artist. While this is not an own-voices story for Wallace, both her extensive research and her prior career as an ESPN reporter make her well-qualified to tell this story. African-American artist Collier captures Barnes’ life as only another dedicated artist could: with skill, a strong sense of place, and hints throughout of Barnes’ artistic style. Collier’s cover image encapsulates so much of Barnes’ fascinating story that, after reading the book, children can revisit the cover to discover its clues.
A biography with appeal for sports fans and budding artists alike, it will also beckon to any reader who appreciates a well-told, artfully illustrated story. (author’s and illustrator’s notes, resources, quote sources) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)