5 fine art picture books


Fine art brings joy to the soul, and these creative women have produced works that do just that. Corita Kent is featured twice and readers also get a behind-the-scenes tour of how art exhibitions are organized.

Fine art brings joy to the soul, and these creative women have produced works that do just that. Corita Kent is featured twice and readers also get a behind-the-scenes tour of how art exhibitions are organized.

Blumenthal, Deborah. Purple Velvet Mittens With Everything: The Fabulous Life of Diana Vreeland. illus. by Rachel Katstaller. 48p. Princeton Architecture. Oct. 2021. Price $ 18.95. ISBN 9781648960635.
Gr 2-5 – Readers get a glimpse into the life of fashion icon Diana Vreeland in this picture book biography. Born in Paris in 1903, Vreeland grew up surrounded by art, music and design. She loved the bright colors and bold makeup that led her to pursue a career in fashion and write a column for Harper’s Bazaar called out, “Why not you?” The column was filled with quirky fashion tips such as “Why don’t you wear purple velvet mittens with everything?” Using quotes from Vreeland’s chronicle and autobiography, this book is written as if Vreeland were directly addressing readers. With only a few sentences on each page, the biographical information is sparse. Instead, it reads like a conversation with Vreeland as she tells readers about the highlights of her life. An author’s note gives more details. A resource page is also included for those who want to learn more about the fashionista. The mixed art work is the star of the book. The bright colors and stylistic design make a nice counterpoint to the text. The palette of purples and reds reflects Vreeland’s love for red lipstick and her suggestion to wear purple mittens. The illustrations include collages cut out from what appear to be newspapers or magazines. VERDICT Buy to fill the gaps in the shelves of artistic picture book biographies. –V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elem. Sch., Raleigh, North Carolina

Burgess, Matthew. Blackmailing Meatballs: The Life and Art of Corita Kent. illus. by Kara Kramer. 80p. Enchanted lion. August 2021. Tr $ 18.95. ISBN 9781592703166.
PreS-Gr 2 – The idea that art is for everyone is at the heart of this illustrated biography of pop artist, activist, teacher and nun Sister Mary Corita Kent. Born Frances Elizabeth Kent in Hollywood, California, in 1918, she was inspired by a nun who gave her art lessons in sixth grade, and by her father who encouraged her to create original works of art. After taking his vows, Kent divided his time between teaching school children art and training young nuns to be teachers. She studied art history, learned engraving and specialized in screen printing or screen printing. Kent coined the word redneck, a combination of the words play and work to describe his approach to artistic creation. She used her works to talk about injustice, poverty and war. At 50, Kent requested to be released from her vows and moved to Boston, where she was commissioned to paint a tank for the Boston Gas Company which became the largest copyrighted work of art. in the world. Its continued success led to the opportunity to design a stamp for the United States Postal Service. Kent’s design included a rainbow, which she used as a symbol of love, hope, and kindness. The reverse includes a timeline and notes from the author and illustrator. The vibrant artwork supports the text and incorporates quotes from Kent as it draws inspiration from his style. VERDICT An invitation to create and explore self-expression, all wrapped up in celebration of an artist the kids probably haven’t met yet; a highly recommended purchase for Biography Collections. –Samantha Lumetta, PL of Cincinnati and Hamilton Cty., OH

Globus, Doro. Make a big exhibition. illus. by Rose Blake. 40p. David Zwirner. Sep 2021. Price $ 18.99. ISBN 9781644230497.
PreS-Gr 2 –A glimpse of the work that goes into an art exhibition. Globus begins with two fictional abstract artists: Viola, a sculptor of large free-standing pieces, and Sebastian, a painter of large geometric oils. The place where they work, the everyday objects that inspire them, the media they use, the studies they create and the assistants employed by Viola are all duly noted. The text works on three levels: one paragraph per full-page illustration or per page moves the story forward; simple sentences describe individual scenes on each page; and one-word tags indicate the many items (chair, plane) and tools of the trade (blowtorch, canvas) found everywhere. Reflecting the work of artists, Blake’s illustrations feature vibrant, pop background colors and often geometric layouts. From the creators’ studios, the artwork travels by plane, boat and truck to the museum, where readers are introduced to the diverse staff who play a role in setting up an exhibition, with a brief description of what each person does. And, as it should be, the hype surrounding the show’s opening: performers arrive in disguise, photos are taken, guests descend, and later, toasts are raised. Jan Mark’s The museum book, for slightly older children, focuses on the many types of collections while adding a bit of museum history. VERDICT Place this cheerful but busy introduction in the hands of early elementary teachers planning a trip to an art museum and the families who frequent them to get a glimpse of the long road from artistic creation to exhibition. –Daryl Grabarek, formerly at School Library Journal

Nakamura, May. Yayoi Kusama: level 3 ready to read. illus. by Alexandra Badiu. 48p. (You should meet). Spotlight on S. & S./Simon. Oct. 2021. Tr $ 17.99. ISBN 9781534495654; porridge. $ 4.99. ISBN 978-1534495647.
PreS-Gr 2 – Emerging readers are introduced to world-renowned Japanese pop artist Kusama, who creates in a variety of media – painting, writing, sculpture, film and even fashion design. Kusama’s work typically includes repeating motifs inspired by the hallucinations the artist began to experience as a child. Her family land was full of flowers and vegetables in Japan before WWII, which prompted her to spend hours outside drawing. When the war started, the government asked Kusama to work in a parachute factory when he was only 10 years old. She never lost sight of her dream of living and working as a professional artist, even with her mother’s disapproval. The artist made plans to study art in Kyoto after the war. Kusama moved to the United States in the 1950s and found success as an artist, inspiring many of his peers who in some cases copied his ideas and took credit for them. Today, she enjoys worldwide popularity, acclaimed criticism and celebrity status that allows her art exhibitions to sell out within hours. The dossier consists of short biographies of famous female artists and a list of fine arts degrees that will help young people gain awareness and explore their careers. This new offering includes illustrations inspired by Kusama, with text intended for newly independent readers. VERDICT An exciting addition to the collections of school and public biographies. –Samantha Lumetta, PL of Cincinnati and Hamilton Cty., OH

Winter, Jeanette. Words and Forms of Sister Corita. illus. by Jeanette Winter. 48p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2021. Tr $ 17.99. ISBN 9781534496019.
K-Gr 3 -Author of many picture book art biographies focuses her attention on Sister Corita (1918–86) – artist, educator and activist whose silkscreen prints, with their messages of love, peace and social justice , were ubiquitous in the 1960s and early 1960s. 1970s. Inspired by the times she lived in, Sister Corita used bright colors and, at times, snippets of typical Pop Art consumer logos in his work, as well as words and quotes in response to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. The author describes the innovative educator as a “little whirlwind” who encouraged her students to “find the details in a bigger picture”. Her progressive ideas at Immaculate Heart College led the Archbishop of Los Angeles to call them “blasphemy,” and she left the convent shortly after. Winter’s signature style is highlighted here: one or two simple sentences per page that capture the spirit of the person and the time, and shallow scenes on a white background. With a nod to the artist, she incorporates words into most illustrations and often makes bold color choices. Winter includes Sister Corita’s “10 Rules” for students, which offer insight into female teaching methods, commentary on the new opening of the Catholic Church after Vatican II, and a short selected bibliography. VERDICT Parish schools will want this title, as will libraries where there is a need for books on artists, activists and those who lead religious lives.–Daryl Grabarek, formerly at School Library Journal

About Stuart M. McFarland

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