We Can: Portraits of Power

Farrar. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374389666.
K-Gr 3–Tyler Gordon is a 15-year-old painter whose portraits of notable Americans have garnered him much praise. This collection features some the portraits and the Americans who have inspired them. In the opening pages, Tyler, who is Black, explains how a dream and a vision from God led him to becoming an artist. Deaf until six years old with a stutter, Gordon started creating portraits as a way for him to deal with the bullying he was experiencing at school. Eventually, a portrait of his principal led to him winning a STEAM competition and inspired him to create even more portraits. Tyler supplies historical information along with the impact he’s experienced from the work of these brave subjects. Joe Biden’s speech impediment, Ice Cube’s autism awareness clothing line, and the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat all inspired him in different ways. Readers are introduced to Gordon’s beautiful paintings and learn little-known facts about some of the iconic subjects. This autobiographical work’s goal is to inspire Americans through art and history. Gordon makes the historical information personal by including his reflections on each figure. This book is an example of the ways young people are impacted by the world and how they can make an impact themselves. Gordon’s observant eye has allowed him to take courage in the work of others as he creates his own paintings. The art is poignant and perfectly aligns with the text.
VERDICT The title is perfect for public and school libraries looking to amplify diverse voices.

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