children's books, nonfiction, reviews

Children’s Books on Famous Artists: Me, Frida, It Jes’ Happened, and Chuck Close Face Book

Me, Frida

Written by Amy Novesky. Illustrated by David Diaz

Published in 2010 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

I love beautiful art. I also love reading about Frida Kahlo, so when Jill (Rhapsody in Books) wrote a review about Me, Frida, I had to get my hands on it. Me, Frida is a non-fiction read about the short time in Frida Kahlo’s life that she spent in San Francisco, California with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera. Novesky stays with the details that we know about Frida’s life. Of course, not everything is detailed but it doesn’t have to be since it’s a children’s book and space is very limited.

The artwork by David Diaz is very beautiful. In her review, Jill wrote that there were pages that you want to tear out and put on your walls, and she is so right. You also see through the artwork how Frida thought of herself at this time. She wasn’t known as an artist but as Mrs. Rivera. At the beginning of the book, almost every page has the couple together. It’s not until Frida explores San Francisco that she comes out of her shell and starts to paint again, finding herself. The pages of just Frida are breathtaking. Young readers will enjoy this book especially the artwork. They’ll probably want to read more about the artist. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Page from Me, Frida

Chuck Close Face book

Chuck Close

Published in 2012 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

If you didn’t read my read-a-thon posts, I should just tell you now that this book was a hit with my kids during the event and for good reason. Chuck Close Face Book features the artist, his artwork, and the questions of children who wanted to know more about him. Through the questions and the artist’s answers, readers learn a lot about Close including the fact that he was “severely” learning disabled as a child growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. He was dyslexic and diagnosed with prosopagnosia, also called “face blindness”. People who have the disorder can’t remember and therefore, can’t recognize faces.  Close has been drawing since he was a child. It was the only thing he was really good at and his parents encouraged him.  Something that’s really inspiring is that his disorder didn’t stop him. Close is famous for making portraits and he also share his techniques. You could say that this is a book for kids but I think this is a book for the whole family. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

Written by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Published in 2012 by Lee & Low Books

Source: Publisher

When Bill Traylor was in his early 80s, he started drawing. Alone and living in the back of businesses, he would draw using whatever materials he could find: the stubs of pencils, scraps of paper and cardboard. It didn’t matter that he didn’t really know how to draw. He just started and taught himself, drawing pictures from his memories of living on a cotton farm near Benton, Alabama. It wasn’t long before a young artist by the name of Charles Shannon saw Traylor’s work and took an interest in it. Developing a friendship that lasted for years, Shannon saved some of Traylor’s drawing, even hosting an exhibit. It wasn’t until almost forty years later, in the 1970s that others took an interest and appreciated Traylor’s “outsider” art. Tate’s writing along with Christie’s illustrations does a fantastic job of bringing Traylor’s story to a new audience. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

All books in this post, unless otherwise stated, were acquired via the public library.

11 thoughts on “Children’s Books on Famous Artists: Me, Frida, It Jes’ Happened, and Chuck Close Face Book”

  1. Me, Frida sounds like a great book for young readers and the artwork looks amazing. Chuck Close Face Book sounds like an inspiring story. All three look like interesting books about artists!

  2. With Me, Frida, I wasn’t so in love with the story, but the art just trumped everything for me. With It Jes Happened, I think I felt the opposite. I loved the story, but I just didn’t get why they had Christie illustrate it instead of using reproductions of actual pictures by Bill Traylor. Maybe there were copyright issues or cost issues…. But it still seemed weird to me to have this whole book specifically about his pictures and then feature someone else’s art! I think Christie does a great job at capturing the feel of Traylor’s art, which made it all the more disconcerting for me! So I actually didn’t even review it, because I couldn’t get past the cognitive dissonance of the art-by-another-artist thing! (I should add that I love Christie’s art, but not so much Traylor’s, even though he is very admirable, so to me it isn’t the best “Christie”! LOL)

  3. Ever since reading Jill’s review of Me, Frida I’ve been wanting to track down that book. It Jes’ Happened looks so good too.

  4. Lovely. Many of these sound quite inspirational and encouraging, too. And the questions RhapsodyJill brings up sounds like you might have some interesting discussions with the kids. (I am assuming the kids also read It Jes’ Happened?)

  5. I became interested in Me, Frida after reading Jill’s review, too. I don’t make as much time for children’s books as I did when the girls were younger… though I really should.

  6. I love Frida. She is one of my idols because they think she developed fibromyalgia, and, at any rate, dealt with her chronic pain in such a strong and inspiring way. I want to read everything I can find on her!

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