Google+ Followers

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Two amazing picture books (good for Art, English, and History)

Allen Say (2011) Drawing from Memory New York:  Scholastic.

You probably know someone who is still young and who loves drawing or who wants to be an art teacher someday.  Don't finish reading this review.  It will only waste time.  Instead, go order this book.  You may want to order a copy for yourself too -- even if you don't fancy becoming an artist some day, if you are interested in history, memoir, Japan, art, education, a well-told story, or beautiful books.

This is the story of children's illustrator Allen Say.  It is a beautiful combination of black and white photographs, drawings from memory, and drawings that Say made when he was just learning how to draw.  it describes his early development as an artist, his disagreements with his father over whether art was a respectable profession, the teachers that nurtured him, how he had to leave home to go to school, the glory of his first studio space, how he learned to combine karate and drawing, and best of all, how he managed to get himself apprenticed to the premier cartoonist in Japan.  I cannot decide whether I like the words best or the art.  I suspect the answer is both. 

I don't know what to tell you about age level for this book.  I think first graders and younger would have a hard time with it.  Beyond that, all bets are off.  I think it would be excellent for middle school, high school, college, and regular grown-ups.  Here is an example of what a page looks like:

This may be the best picture book I have read this year. It is so good that I kept it even when it was overdue (and I NEVER let books be overdue).

de la Pena, Matt; Nelson, Kadir  (2011)   A Nation's Hope:  The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis.  New York:  Dial Books.

So I'll confess up front, I am not much of a boxing fan, but when I turned to the first page of this book and saw Kadir Nelson's painting of a crowd outside of Yankee Stadium in 1939 in the setting sunlight, it took me by surprise, and it took my breath away (and I don't even like the Yankees).  De la Pena frames this book as not only the fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, but also as Joe Louis's fight for respect in Jim Crow America.  And also maybe, as the way that Joe Louis gave America a hero when it really needed one.  He does a nice job.  The book is well written. but really, it doesn't matter.  What makes this book is Nelson's illustrations.  The light and dark in an image of a brightly lit boxing ring adrift in a sea of darkness; the image of Joe Louis as a dejected kid, dreaming of a better life; the image of a black family huddled around the radio:  all these draw you far deeper than you would ever think images could.  I am used to getting lost in the words of a book.   This experience, getting lost in the images, was somewhat new to me.

Look, you'll just have to see it yourself. 


No comments:

Post a Comment