Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends by David Stabler & Doogie Horner (review)

kidartists_quirkbooksFrom the Cover:
The series that began with Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes has a new volume that chronicles the childhoods of 16 celebrated artists—everyone from Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh to Mary Cassat, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and even Dr. Seuss! Readers will learn:· Georgia O’Keeffe was so enthralled by nature that she once ate dirt just to see what it tasted like.
· Jackson Pollock lost the top of his right index finger in a childhood accident (and the severed tip was eaten by a rooster!).
· Andy Warhol’s favorite childhood lunch was—what else?—a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup.Every scribble, sketch, and sticky situation comes to life in these kid-friendly and relatable stories, all with Doogie Horner’s trademark full-color illustrations. Kid Artists is a delight for budding artists and eager readers alike.

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Kid Artists does a fantastic job of introducing a variety of artists to young readers.  Divided into three sections, the artists included are from a variety of backgrounds and styles.

Each artist’s mini-biography starts in childhood and continues on to show the effects of their early circumstances and experiences on their adult lives and artistic careers.  These are stories that can be used as a micro-lesson, or merely as an inspirational jumping-off point for discussions of such topics as prejudice, bullying, poverty, war, shyness, grief and loss.  More positive topics, such as perseverance, are imbedded in these stories as well.   Even as an adult, reading these stories gave me a better understanding of some artists I have long been familiar with (even ones whose art are still not to my taste).

Written in a very accessible manner, the illustrations stand out as a compliment to the text and for their much needed humor.  While the stories are the vital part of this book, it is the illustrations that will help keep the interest of some younger readers (they cover image almost has me liking Andy Warhol).  Though, granted, there are some parts of the stories that will appeal to those who like a bit of the macabre.  Who would guess that Beatrix Potter and her brother once boiled an animal down to a skeleton in order to preserve and study it, or that Jackson Pollock lost the top of a finger in a wood chopping accident.  These are also some the details that some might want to review before handing the book to a child, if there are issues with imitative behavior or a child that might not be emotionally ready for some content.

Recommended for intermediate to middle grade readers (or their parents & educators) who enjoy learning about other peoples lives, and especially for those who are aspiring artists.

On a personal note, I was particularly surprised and pleased that Canadian artist Emily Carr was included.  I do not recall ever hearing of Emily Carr until a trip to Canada in 1998, when I toured her Victorian era home in Victoria, B.C. and purchased a copy of her childhood memoir The Book of Small as a souvenir.

The Emily Carr House is part museum and part gallery space for local artists.  Preserved as a National and Provincial Historical Site, it is open to the public from early May until late October (check ahead for hours and entry fee) and includes a small gift shop.

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends, written by David Stabler, illustrated by Doogie Horner | Quirk Books, August 2016 | hardback, 208 pgs

This review refers to a review copy received from the publisher.  All opinions expressed are my own.