Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ART IS LIFE by Tami Lewis Brown


The Life of Artist Keith Haring

by Tami Lewis Brown ; illustrated by Keith Negley

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-374-30424-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A child’s introduction to Keith Haring.

Outlining the artistic career of an iconic neo-expressionist is hardly a black-and-white endeavor, and paring down Haring’s legacy for children over 30 years after an early and complicated death is a task in itself. Unfortunately, this effort fails to deliver an in-depth or unique look at his life or his art, instead reducing both to a repetitive and uninspired mantra: “Art is life. Life is art.” Beginning with Haring's hildhood in Pennsylvania and continuing through his life in 1980s New York City, author Brown provides a well-paced but conservative biography, with almost no personal details or thoughtful analysis of his work. Within its limitations, it succeeds well enough. The text is punctuated with a number of choice vocabulary words, good for inquisitive young readers at a variety of levels, and bookended with enough context for understanding. The book is truly carried, however, by Negley’s vibrant and (appropriately) semiabstract illustrations. The pages burst with lively pops of color, friendly faces in a diverse palette—Haring is White—and, naturally, an endless stream of squiggly lines and dancing figures. Altogether, it’s a decent starting point for youngsters interested in drawing on the walls, but a noticeable lack of nuance leaves something to be desired. Matthew Burgess and Josh Cochran’s Drawing on Walls (2020) paints a far fuller picture.

Despite excellent illustrations, does not do its subject’s complexity justice.

(author's note, illustrator's note, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-6)