You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce

Penguin/Kokila. Jan. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593406502.
Gr 1-4–Elijah Pierce was an African American folk artist whose work was discovered by the art world late in life. His wood carvings, voice, and representation within the African American community are valuable. In this book, a Black child and his father step into Pierce’s Barbershop, the community hotspot, for haircuts, and the child talks to Pierce about art. The riveting, bold color illustrations place Pierce’s story in the moment, although his suit and barbershop interior locks this period piece into the 1970s. Japanese wood blocks and Pierce’s original art are seamlessly interwoven in this mixed-media piece, a thoughtful homage to an artist whose medium was wood. Clever and beautiful, it pairs brilliantly with the text and Pierce’s life as a barber. Sharp onomatopoeia scats across between the child’s fresh cut and the sculpting of wood, as Pierce shows his gallery after cutting hair. His hands form art, the barbershop is his gallery, and all of this is the community he’s created through his goodwill. Back matter includes author and illustrator notes, information about Pierce’s art and exhibits, and further resources.
VERDICT A quality selection for informational books about artists and BIPOC individuals, this is likely to spark some real love in conversations surrounding the role of folk art, community outposts such as neighborhood barbershops, and more.

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