This wonder-filled book about a nameless boy reads like a heartfelt dedication to children like him, whose heads always seem to be in the clouds — you know, the kid who likes to take his time and seems to have no sense of hurry; the kid who doesn’t always pay attention when you want him to; the kid who’s always daydreaming…
The recent trend of high-quality picturebook biographies is one that I hope will continue, since there’s nothing more edifying than learning about the inspiring lives of real people. These artists’ biographies are particularly apt for the picturebook medium since their life’s work is pictorial by nature. The authors and illustrators of these books have also done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the artists and their unique visions.
A picture can speak a thousand words, as the saying goes, but it’s often woefully inadequate when it comes to representing people and all the qualities — both their good and less desirable attributes — that make them who they are.
Thanks to its simple cover art — some paint splatter, and a boy standing just off-centre and writing out the equally spare title of the book, Art, in understated block lettering — you are refreshingly free from any preconceived notions about this book when you first open it. In other words, it kind of begins on a blank slate — pretty apt considering that is how all art begins.
In order to create art, let alone great art, one must be daring and imaginative, and see the world in a resolutely different way. As such, it’s no surprise that great artists are often described as ‘eccentric’ since they don’t compromise their point of view to conform to plebeianistic expectations. And thank goodness for that.
Channeling the spirit of the artist in question, Picasso’s Trousers is a refreshingly original and entertaining child-friendly biography that is spot-on in its humorous approach to introducing to kids one of most groundbreaking artists who ever lived.
The idea of taking a writing implement such as a purple crayon, a red marker or a red chalk and magically drawing things that become real, or portals to other lands, has been explored many times in children’s books; and while they are all wonderfully imaginative, I’ve always found that they seem to be aimed at children who are already somewhat proficient in drawing.
While Andrew Drew and Drew also features a protagonist with a writing implement — a pencil this time — it is inventive and creative in a way that doesn’t intimidate or overwhelm children who simply have an interest in art and enjoy doodling, even if their sketches don’t exactly resemble — at least to the ‘untrained’ eye — what they are intended to be.
The Artful Alphabet is quite possibly the most beautiful example of the done-to-death genre of children’s alphabet books — and the antithesis of the majority of, frankly, lazy, boring and uninspiring alphabet books produced solely to get a slice of the lucrative, evergreen parent-magnet pie.
Instead of simply plonking in generic or recycled photographs/artwork, a lot of thought has been given to every page in this book, which is filled with sumptuous, original illustrations born from the artist’s imagination.