Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday - #nf10for10

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
Today, my Nonfiction Wednesday is going to be a little different.  First, I'll include my regular, weekly review on a nonfiction picture book:
 The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

This is the fascinating story of Vasya Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art. He was a proper boy in Russia, studying math, science, and history (the illustrations show him as bored and uninspired while doing so) until he was given a box of paints. When he mixed the colors together, he heard a hiss that turned into a symphony. Now he was motivated and inspired! The music he heard in the colors drove him to paint wildly, not properly like his teachers wanted him to. He tried to conform again and went to law school and then art school. Even at art school, he tried to paint what his art teachers wanted, but he wasn't happy. Only when he abandoned landscapes and still lifes and painted to the music he heard was he happy. When he finally chose his true passion, abstract art was born, and people came to appreciate it. It wasn't about what people saw, it was about what it made them FEEL. The author's note in the back is fascinating - we know now that he probably had synesthesia (read this book as a companion book to A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass). Photographs of his gorgeous paintings follow the author's note. Great story and illustrations!  Read Mr. Schu's wonderful interview with Barb Rosenstock:
Now on to the second part of my post today...


I'm participating in this fantastic #nf10for10 event,  hosted by Cathy Mere, Mandy Robek, and Julie Balen!  Oh my, it's so hard to narrow any favorites list down to ten, and I had to think about how I wanted to do that.  I decided to go with a theme topic, and when I read The Noisy Paint Box, I thought about all the wonderful nonfiction picture books I've read about art and artists!  I knew I had my theme topic!  My Top Ten Nonfiction Picture Books about Art and Artists (in no particular order):

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Beautifully illustrated book about a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s who would make pottery and carve poems into them. I can't wait to meet the illustrator of this beautiful book,  Bryan Collier, at the Dublin Literacy Conference this Saturday!  My potter friend, Karan Witham-Walsh, uses this book in her high school ceramics classroom.
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius
Since this biography won the Sibert Honor medal at the 2014 Youth Media Awards, and it was the only one I hadn't read in that category, I remedied that as soon as I could! George E. Ohr was indeed an eccentric genius. I love how he held on to his imaginative artistic ideals even in the face of the Industrial Revolution. The photographs throughout of him and his handlebar mustache and his beautiful pottery are wonderful. This is an excellent addition to a classroom library.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
Another Sibert Honor medal winner this year!  I LOVED this book! This book is about birds, but there is definitely an art element.  I am a bird geek, and I spent many hours as a child drawing birds (why did I stop?) and raising chickens and ducks. I still love watching birds come to the feeders, especially on a snowy day. This book reminded me about why I love them so much! It's a very "busy" book - lots of information, drawing tips, even comics and humor. My daughter gave me drawing pencils and a sketch journal for my birthday after I read this.
         Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing        
I was fascinated by this book about Randolph Caldecott.  I love the many illustrations included by Caldecott, his story of fulfilling his life's dream, and the design of this book. I was also interested in the people he rubbed shoulders with and inspired: John Tenniel (illustrator of Lewis Carroll's Alice), George du Maurier, George Eliot, and Beatrix Potter. We also learn about the evolution of the picture book and inner workings of this famous man.
Henri's Scissors: with audio recording
5. Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winter

I love books about artists and how they get their inspiration. This is an interesting biography of Henri Matisse and how his art developed over time. Late in life, Matisse was confined to a wheelchair, and that's where he started creating his famous paper cutouts.
Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People
This is a good account of Diego Rivera's life and development as an artist. His romantic life was a bit of a soap opera; he was married to artist Frida Kahlo twice. The paintings and photographs throughout the biography are wonderful, and there is a note about Mexican history and Rivera's artistic influences in the back.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award

An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book
Winner of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

  Horace Pippin was the personification of passion and determination. My students loved hearing about how he overcame his disability, an injury to his right arm sustained during WWI, to continue making art.   I loved the real photograph of him at the end. 

Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore
Lincoln Borglum was the son of the sculptor of Mt. Rushmore and took over the gargantuan task of finishing the massive sculpture. It's unbelievable how a work of art like that can be imagined and executed. This is a great book to share with kids to talk about art, determination, and human ingenuity.    
Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His Dream
This biography is told in poem form and contains quotes by Audubon. This would be a good companion book to A Nest for Celeste and Okay for Now to give kids background knowledge.

 Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
2012 Sibert Medal
   This is the story of Tony Sarg, the inventor of the Macy's parade puppets/balloons. The illustrations are whimsical and fascinating, and I love the problem-solving process Sarg went through to figure out how to make the puppets/balloons in the parade. Great stuff! Kids love this book and are inspired to figure out how things work and make their passions into vocations!

I couldn't help it - once I got to school, I had to check in my book crate labeled "Art" to see if I forgot any titles, and sure enough!  Here are three bonus books that I have in my classroom but haven't read yet - I'm going to take them home tonight!

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O�Keeffe Painted What She Pleased Fabulous: A Portrait of Andy Warhol Chuck Close: Face Book
What are YOUR favorite nonfiction picture books about art/artists?
Time to go to #nf10for10 to see all the other great lists!



  1. Holly - These are amazing titles and so many of them are new to us. Thank you

  2. I've been surprised at how many wonderful art picture book biographies there have been!

  3. Love this! I'm absolutely sharing it with all the artists (and art teachers) I know!

  4. What a great idea for a collection! It's always inspiring to read about those who are creative and artistic. Many of these titles are new to me so lots to check out! I'm so glad you joined the fun. I'm so glad so many of the participants blog in the weekly nonfiction challenge. I've learned a lot stopping by their blogs.


  5. This is a great theme for a list, Holly. You've included some titles I know, but most are new to me. I can't wait to read them all. Thanks for sharing!