February 25, 2018

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Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace | SLJ Review

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redstarWALLACE, Sandra Neil. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. illus. by Bryan Collier. 48p. further reading. notes. reprods. websites. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481443876.

Gr 1-4 –The pursuit of dreams and the resilience of the human spirit shine in this illustrated biography of one of the world’s greatest sports artists. Growing up in the segregated south, Ernie Barnes loved to draw and rarely left home without his sketchbook. Shy, quiet, and often picked on, Barnes found his voice by painting what he observed in his surroundings: families walking, an old man snoring, the junk man peddling. When he grew to be six foot three, he was recruited for the high school football team and eventually earned a sports scholarship to an all-black university. Still, Barnes was discouraged: he wanted to be an artist instead of an athlete. His art teacher inspired him to paint what he saw, and suddenly his calling was realized: he will paint football, seeing the beauty in what before was ordinary. Barnes would go on to make the NFL, play for the Colts, and paint his first football painting, The Bench, a work that would define his career for years to come. After leaving football for good, his professional dream was fully realized when he was invited to become the official artist for the American Football League: “When I became an athlete, I didn’t stop being an artist.” Collier’s illustrations are storytellers on their own, blending emulations of Barnes’s work with dynamic, mixed-media imagery that enhances the book’s historical relevance. VERDICT An absolutely indispensable illustrated biography that will remind readers of all ages that it’s never too late to pursue their dreams.–Natalie ­Romano, Denver Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

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