JAKE MAKES A WORLD by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts


Jacob Lawrence, a Young Artist in Harlem
Age Range: 4 - 8
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Coinciding with the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series, this title imagines the artist as a young teenager experiencing his own move from Philadelphia to Harlem in 1930.

With just a few sentences per spread, historian Rhodes-Pitts describes Jake’s reactions to the colors and textures of once-familiar furnishings—things he has been separated from since his mother sought work in New York three years earlier: “His feet sink deep into the thick blue rug. When his toes touch the ground, it’s like a sky upside down.” Perhaps to suggest that the adolescent is already thinking artistically or that he is noticing his stimulating milieu, Myers inserts sly visual references to 20th-century painters. In addition to Matisse and Miró, he pays homage to O’Keeffe as the boy peers into “Starlight Night” through his window. Vibrant hues and diagonal elements animate the straightforward accounts of street-corner preachers and checkers players. The author adopts a more lyrical tone as Jake visits the Utopia Children’s House for art classes after school. In the penultimate scene, Myers depicts the young man building his neighborhood inside a shoebox with figures that foreshadow the compositions in the final spread of five Migration scenes.

Comprising 24 pages, the narrative closes a bit abruptly; nonetheless, this is a dynamic and creative introduction to a groundbreaking artist and an iconic collection. (biographical note, selected works, museum trustees) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 30th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-87070-965-4
Page count: 44pp
Publisher: MoMA
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