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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

by Javaka Steptoe

School Library Journal Gr 1-5-Through a simple text and vivid mixed-media collage art, the author evokes the life and work of the Brooklyn-born Basquiat, who was nurtured in a loving family and schooled in the museums and streets of New York City. Incorporating found materials into the illustrations, Steptoe captures the originality and urban vibe of a charismatic artist whose talent revealed itself early on and matured into a powerful social and political voice. Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 1-5-A visually stunning picture book biography about modern art phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork reflect the Haitian Puerto Rican artist's collage-style paintings that rocketed him to fame in the 1980s. Back matter and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat's work help readers appreciate the layers of Black identity and Yoruba influences at play in Steptoe's illustrations. Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 1-5-One extraordinary artist illuminates another in this textured, heartfelt picture book biography of the 1980s cultural phenom. Employing signature features of Jean-Michel Basquiat's work-vibrant colors, found objects, repeated motifs-Steptoe allows his own emotionally rich style to shine through the artistic and biographical references dotting the illustrations. Pieces of discarded wood from Basquiat's stomping grounds fit together to form the painted surfaces for Steptoe's scenes of the Afro Puerto Rican artist, each unfolding within a colored frame. Occasional collage elements of newsprint, photographs, and art materials add dimension and immediacy, highlighting both artists' immersion in their work and surroundings. Adhering to a straightforward chronology, Steptoe addresses events in Basquiat's life primarily as they affected his artistic growth from young boyhood in Brooklyn through the triumphant years as a critical and popular success in Manhattan. With minimal detail, the author sensitively touches upon his subject's childhood car crash and his mother's mental illness, though the story avoids his drug use and stops before his early death. Crucial back matter provides context for readers in every respect. Additional biographical information fleshes out the lyrical text of the main narrative, and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat's work helps readers appreciate the layers at play in Steptoe's illustrations. An author's note articulates feelings that radiate from every page of the book: Steptoe's admiration for and attachment to Basquiat and his personal investment in depicting a complicated, loving relationship between a child and a mentally ill parent. VERDICT Pairing simple text with expressive, encompassing illustrations, this excellent title offers a new generation a fittingly powerful introduction to an artistic luminary.-Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly In this visually arresting and vibrantly narrated biography, Steptoe (In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall) charts the childhood of incandescent, ill-fated artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Although the book includes no work by Basquiat himself, Steptoe emulates 1980s street art by layering paint, paper scraps, paint tubes, and photos on found-wood panels. The artist, Steptoe writes, learned to see art in the "messy patchwork of the city," the "street games of little children," and the "terrible blues" of growing up. Basquiat's early influences include his Puerto Rican mother, Matilde, who encourages him with museum visits and with the textbook Gray's Anatomy. Poetry and his Haitian father's jazz records fuel his imagination, too: "His drawings are not neat or clean, nor does he color inside the lines." Basquiat's radiance was suffused with trauma, and Steptoe alludes to Matilde's mental illness and Basquiat's teenage strife ("His mother's mind is not well, and the family breaks"). Passing references to Warhol, Haring, graffiti, and Basquiat's heroin overdose appear in the afterword: "Basquiat lived an exhilarating life, but... he struggled with a drug addiction until his death." Overall, Steptoe focuses on Basquiat's meteoric rise, and readers see the artist smiling as he walks on the gritty Lower East Side. Collaged photographs picture a crowded gallery, and Steptoe concludes in the present tense: "He is now a famous artist!" Steptoe downplays tragic elements, instead celebrating Basquiat's irreverence and brilliance. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Beautifully evoking his subject's exuberant, colorful, and playful art style in jostling paintings on scraps of found wood, Steptoe introduces young readers to Basquiat's childhood and early career. Born in Brooklyn, Basquiat loved art early, and with the encouragement of his similarly artistic mother, he actively pursued his dream of being a famous artist, finding creative inspiration not only at museums but also in the color and rhythm of the city around him. Basquiat's signature style sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still beautiful should appeal in particular to kids who find joy in free-form scribbles, and that same spirit animates Steptoe's collage illustrations. Thickly laid paints and exploded perspectives in bright hues depict scenes from Basquiat's life and highlight some of his iconic imagery, like golden cartoon crowns, eyeballs, and vehicles scattered everywhere. There's no mention of his problems with addiction or untimely death; rather, the book closes with him achieving his dream, crown overhead and surrounded by clipped headlines about his work. A lively, engaging introduction to a one-of-a-kind artist perfect for art-loving kids.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.


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