September 24, 2017

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5 Titles To Inspire Future Artists | SLJ Spotlight

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Considering the recent proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, it is an excellent time to emphasize the importance of the fine arts to students. The following titles are perfect for inspiring readers to engage in their creative sides and will instill a lifelong appreciation for artists.

redstarCharleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women. 112p. illus. photos. Annick. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554519583; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554519576.

Gr 10 Up –According to the foreword, Charleyboy’s intent for this anthology is to provide a “space to not only write a love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way, but also to help dispel those stereotypes so we can collectively move forward to a brighter future for all.” Charleyboy and Leatherdale have selected art, poetry, and prose created by Indigenous teenage girls and women that touch on a plethora of topics, from Standing Rock to ReMatriate, a collective of Indigenous women dedicated to showing the multiplicity of Indigenous identity through social media. Each entry is titled and accompanied by the author’s name and their tribal ancestry or affiliation. In addition to the text, art pieces such as Lianne Marie Leda Charlie’s Tagé Cho (Big River) and Pamela J. Peters’s Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood, which recasts iconic movie stars as Indigenous actors/actresses, deepen the conversation and provide alternative ways of looking at identity, history, and inherited trauma. Some entries are in dialogue with readers, while others offer deeply personal insights—and all emphasize the damage that ignoring or changing the rich histories of Indigenous people does, especially in regards to women. This portrait of girlhood is a necessary addition in line with #ownvoices and We Need Diverse Books movements. And with a hashtag as a title, it should garner much-needed attention on social media, in libraries, and on bookshelves. VERDICT A stunning anthology of creative writing and art—a love letter, indeed. All YA collections will want this.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY

redstargreenberg, Jan & Sandra Jordan. Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon. 64p. bibliog. notes. photos. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626725201.

Gr 4-8 –The duo’s latest collaboration centers on a contemporary artist so enigmatic that it’s no surprise the authors begin by asking readers, “Who is Cindy Sherman?” The work opens with Sherman’s childhood and early career in New York City before launching into chapters organized around milestone projects/installations (Chapter 4 covers Rear Screen Projections 1980–1981, Fairy Tales 1985, and more). Sherman’s iconic photos are reproduced with clarity and quality, with most laid out over a page or half page. The authors break down the myriad personas present in the artist’s body of work and challenge students to consider the relationship between interpretation and meaning and how much weight to give to an artist’s intent (or lack of) when viewing and analyzing art. Egalitarian statements such as “Art is for everyone at every age” lend the book a welcoming tone, and the authors often address readers directly (“Do clothes and hairstyles make us what we are?”) and include quotes from real kids that oftentimes demonstrate the subjective nature of art interpretation. An ending “Production Notes” spread takes this to the next level and guides readers through Sherman’s Untitled #571, 2016, directing their attention to color, texture, line, shape, and focus. VERDICT This fascinating investigation of a significant U.S. artist will prompt endless discussions on art history, photography, pop culture, gender roles, and even selfies. A title not to be missed.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

Rosenstock, Barb. Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky. illus. by Mary GrandPré. 40p. bibliog. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101937105.

K-Gr 2 –Long before Vincent van Gogh became a famous painter, in Rosenstock’s imagining, he was young boy who couldn’t sleep. He dreamt restlessly of escaping the confines of his life in boarding schools and bustling business centers, eagerly searching to find his passion and bring light to a harsh and unforgiving world. As a child, he wandered under the shimmering skies of his hometown, nestling in gardens and meadows and observing the intensity of the night sky. As a student, van Gogh was bored with his schoolwork and spent most of his time reading, writing, and dreaming alone. As an adult, he called himself an artist and set out on his own—teaching, writing, traveling—much to the dislike of his family. After he completes his masterpiece The Starry Night, his life’s purpose is found and he can sleep peacefully at last. Captivating bursts of color are matched with rich vocabulary, capturing van Gogh’s bold and unique interpretation of the world. The book’s lyrical text paired with dazzling, expressive reiterations of van Gogh’s most famous creations will enchant readers who long to discover their own artistic voice. VERDICT This versatile book is both an outstanding choice for reading aloud or for introducing art history concepts to young audiences.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

redstarRubin, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. 112p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Chronicle. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452108377.

Gr 4-8 –For many, Maya Lin’s name is synonymous with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This biography moves beyond that singular project to provide readers with a fuller picture of Lin. Born in the United States to Chinese parents and a “Class A nerd,” she never felt that she fit in until college. Rubin incorporates information about Lin’s life and family, while putting the primary focus of each chapter on a specific project. Lin’s thinking is outlined in each case, whether it is how to help people understand the civil rights movement (the Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AL) or how to raise hopes and spirits with her design for a chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund in Clinton, TN. Pages of large text alternate with black-and-white family photos and striking color images of her designs, both as they were taking shape, and upon completed construction. The spare writing style and the book’s uncluttered layout provide a reading experience as thoughtful and emotionally connected as one of Lin’s installations. The narrative represents the artist’s body of work from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to her current involvement with What Is Missing?, a project bringing attention to endangered species. VERDICT Thoughtfully written and visually engaging, this biography is a must for elementary and middle school libraries.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

redstarSay, Allen. Silent Days, Silent Dreams. illus. by Allen Say. 64p. bibliog. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780545927611.

Gr 3-7 –In this fascinating longform “imagined” biography about James Castle, author-illustrator Say plays with artistic and literary formats. Castle was born deaf and premature in Idaho, was considered to be autistic and dyslexic, and was abused and bullied for his inability to speak or read. He was discouraged from creating art by his parents and principal, and had his art supplies confiscated and artworks destroyed many times, yet he still created a huge and compelling body of work. The biography is written from the perspective of Castle’s nephew, Bob Beach, and the back matter provides detailed information about the artist and Say’s connection to him. Say’s art, inspired by the many styles of James Castle, vibrates on the page in a variety of media, including matchsticks, shoe polish, liquid laundry bluing, and cardboard, and he even switched hands to imitate Castle. Just as Castle’s art leapt in styles and emotions, Say’s work shows the trials of a beleaguered and prolific artist. VERDICT A phenomenal and profoundly artistic and biographical work.–Lisa Nowlain, Nevada County ­Community Library, CA

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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