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Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: A Story of Revolution and Art

Candlewick. Sept. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536204285.
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PreS-Gr 4–The transformative power of art takes center stage in this picture book biography loosely based on the lives of internationally acclaimed artists and brothers ShanZuo and DaHuang Zhou. Born in the 1950s in the People’s Republic of China, the brothers (then known as Shaoli and Shaoning) came of age during the Cultural Revolution. After their father was forced into a labor camp and their mother was imprisoned by the government, the brothers were raised by their grandmother, Po Po, who was a bookseller. They painted and heard stories about the cliff paintings of Huashan; as they grew older, the cliff paintings and stories influenced their work. After Po Po died, the brothers began to paint a mural together on the walls of their family bookstore and embarked on an artistic partnership that still exists today. The idea that beauty cannot exist without ugliness is echoed throughout the text. The strength of this book lies in the autobiographical artwork rendered by the brothers. Representation of their artwork over the span of their career mirrors their growth as artists while also providing a sample of their work. Author and illustrator’s notes are included.
VERDICT A fascinating introduction to two contemporary artists who battled adversity and hardships to pursue the higher calling of creative expression. Purchase for large collections where picture book biographies are in demand.

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