Friday, December 9, 2016

PPBF: Art, Scupture, Photography

There's no official Perfect Picture Book Friday today, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce a few of the worthwhile picture books I've read this fall.

Today's theme is FINE ART!

Dorothea's Eyes, the biography of
photographer Dorothea Lange
Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth
Written by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Gerard DuBois

Calkins Creek, 2016
Ages 8-12, 40 pp, 580L

Biography, Disability, Nonfiction, Photography

Dorothea opens her grey-green eyes.
They are special eyes.
They see what others miss . . .

Photographer Dorothea Lange may have been shy as a child, but when she developed polio, leaving her with a limp, she wanted to completely disappear. By hiding behind her camera, she could almost do that. Though she wished to remain invisible, Lange wanted nothing more than to draw attention to the invisible people she saw through her lens. As a photo-journalist, she told the stories of the poor and destitute. Her work speaks powerfully for the voiceless common people, saying, "This is the way it is. Look at it! Look at it!"

This was a great story and an interesting biography. Of course I know Lange's work and have studied her influence, but I didn't know anything about her as a person, nor how her personal struggles changed the course of her life and informed her photography. As with all of Barb Rosenstock's books, Dorothea's Eyes is well researched, thoughtfully written, and superbly organized.

 For more reviews of this book, check out the posts from fellow PPBF participants, Beth Anderson and Sue Heavenrich.

Seeing Things, A Kid's Guide to Looking at Photographs
Joel Meyerowitz: Seeing Things: A Kid's Guide to Looking at Photographs
Written by Joel Meyerowitz
Illustrated with photos of thirty famous photographers

Aperture, 2016
Ages 8-12, 80 pp

Art Appreciation, Nonfiction, Photography

"I chose the photographs in this book with the hope that the things you discover in them will encourage you to open your eyes and your mind so that you can see the world around you in a new way."

"The moment of seeing is like waking up."
The author's goal is to teach readers how to think about photography. What to look for. How the photo was created. Why the photographer chose that particular moment in time. The result is stunning. Broken into sections such as Timing is Everything, Shadow Play, and The Frame Within the Frame, this could be a textbook on artistic composition or a study of the world's great photographers. Each section has a photo by a different artist which illustrates something specific to look for: repetition of shapes, components that move the eye around the page, the use of reflections, the power of a human gaze. Readers will appreciate art in a new way. They will not only take away tools to use in seeing the world or in making their own art, but also a greater understanding and appreciation for photography as an art form. I loved this book. I recommend it for every student, and I don't say that lightly. It is engaging, enlightening, transforming. After reading Seeing Things, I have no doubt many kids will stop to think as they snap chat or pose for their next selfie. And that's a good thing.

I should note that both front and back covers are cutouts, with the eye, iris, cornea being on different layers. It may help draw readers to this book, but it is not the kind of  design that will last in a school library or classroom. I was disappointed the book didn't contain an index of photographers. Also, the typesetting was bizarre, offsetting paragraphs and drastically changing font sizes. I guess the changes were meant to keep kids reading through the whole page, but it was a bit annoying for me, seeming haphazard and arbitrary. But don't let it stop you from reading and recommending this book.

Cloth Lullaby,
The biography of sculptor Louise Bourgeois
Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois
Written by Amy Novesky
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Harry N. Abrams, 2016
Ages 5-8, 40 pp, 1000L

Biography, Non-fiction, Art

"Louise was raised by a river. Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like a wool thread through everything."

Cloth Lullaby uses poetic imagery and highly stylized illustrations to underscore the idea that Louise's experiences and memories wove together to lead her to become a fabric sculptor as an adult. Her mother was a weaver, and the idea of tapestries is a recurring theme throughout. Spiders and webs, too, find their way into the illustrations. As well as reinforcing the idea of weaving, they prefigure what is perhaps Bourgeois's most famous work, Maman, a thirty-foot spider.

Kid Artists, the newest book in the Kid Legends series
Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative LegendsWritten by David Stabler
Illustrated by Doogie Horner

Quirk Books, 2015
Ages9-12, 208 pp, 1010L

Biography, Sports, History, Nonfiction

DaVinci, Van Gogh, Potter, Carr, O'Keeffe, Nevelson, Seuss, Pollock, Schulz, Ono, Basquiat, Monet, Picasso, Kahlo, Lawrence, Warhol, Haring,

This was my first glimpse at the True Tales series. I can see the kid-appeal. The stories, picked from actual childhood events, are usually amusing, generally inspiring, and frequently educational. The style of illustration is absurd, aimed at luring kids who might not normally read biography books. I liked how the author grouped the artists: incidents during which the artist was influenced by nature, artists' whose work was shaped by difficulties like illness or loss, and artists who showed persistence in spite of obstacles or failures. I also liked the variety of artists the author chose. This guide seems like a great introduction for young readers despite the decidedly ridiculous tone and the lack of any actual reproductions of their work.

Check out these and other Perfect Picture books at your local library.

Gordon Parks,
by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jamey Christoph
What Degas Saw,
Samantha Friedman and Cristina Pieropan

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!


  1. I loved both Cloth Lullaby and Seeing Things, but I hadn't thought of them together. They connect in surprising ways. Thanks for making ME see something new!

    1. My pleasure. I hope Seeing Things gets more attention. I was so impressed by the content and concept. Thanks for reading!


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