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A IS FOR ART by Stephen T. Johnson


An Abstract Alphabet

by Stephen T. Johnson & illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson

Age Range: 6 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-689-86301-1
Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Johnson laces an exhilarating visual exploration of 20th-century art history with alliterative A-to-Z wordplay. The 26 paintings and sculptures, some gallery-sized in scope, cleverly combine specific objects, letterforms and even paint hues—all with names beginning with the illustrated letter. T’s double spread, the three-paneled painting “Triptych,” features “[t]hick-textured titanium paint” and “[t]en teal blue thumbprints” and includes tracing paper and tape—a “tiny three-dimensional toy to tease out trains of thought.” The mix of media, visual problem-solving and stylistic derivations (Stuart Davis, Motherwell, de Kooning and others are invoked) make this a terrific springboard for student art extensions. Each composition usually sports the inclusion of the spread’s featured letter, with occasional, rather fey textual allusions to “misplaced” letters: “(The omitted letter O occupies the upper left on the opposite page.)” A poignant author’s note invites readers to contemplate two disparate art pieces from Johnson’s youth, and a visual “index” reveals media, dimensions and a hidden letter key for each piece. Enigmatic and absorbing. (Informational picture book. 6-12)