I’m participating in Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Visit her blog to find out what nonfiction picture books others are reading and sharing this week.
This week, my son and I read two nonfiction picture book biographies that got him asking lots of good questions. Curiosity about the world is a luxury he didn’t have as a small child, and I’m so happy to see wonder developing in him. I love it when we finish a book and my son asks me to grab my iPad so we can do some research together.
Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol, written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen, focuses on Warhol’s childhood (he was sickly and shy and took refuge in drawing) and early career in New York City. Christensen takes complicated ideas (for instance, how Warhol used the principles and practices of commercial art to produce fine art) and makes them accessible to young readers. Her own illustrations are lively and engaging, and she has a good ear for the child-friendly detail (Warhol’s wigs; his multi-cat household–all named Sam). After we finished reading, my son wanted to see more of Andy’s art, but he especially wanted to see photographs of Andy in his wigs and examples of Andy’s films–such as the six-hour film of a man sleeping called, fittingly, Sleep. I had to say no to six hours of Sleep, but we did find a four-minute film of Andy himself eating a hamburger, and that more than sufficed. (We also experimented briefly with calling all six of our cats Frances.)
Funnily enough, I had the perfect pre-reading activity for this book and I totally spaced it. This Warhol print of Annie Oakley is hanging on the wall in our living room:
So there we were, reading about Andy Warhol while sitting in the room with an actual Warhol print, and I hadn’t thought to mention that fact. Luckily, when my son asked me what Warhol’s other art (not the Campbell’s Soup Can) looks like, I happened to glance up while thinking about how to answer his question. And there was an example–right in front of my eyes.
Robert Andrew Parker’s Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum introduced us to jazz pianist, Art Tatum, who was nearly blind. (This book won the Schneider Family Award in 2009). Parker’s illustrations beautifully convey the spirit of jazz music as well as suggesting the limitations of Tatum’s vision, and his writing is evocative and lyrical while still being very accessible to young readers. As soon as we finished this book, we hopped over to You Tube to watch videos of Tatum playing the piano. I don’t love listening to jazz, but I did love watching Tatum’s hands flying across the keys.
Most of all, I loved listening to my son tell my husband about the two books we read and pull him over to watch videos of Tatum and see pictures of Warhol.