We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2020 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
Given our otherworldly theme, I thought it would be good to feature picturebook biographies of artists who perceive the world differently, allowing them to “make a world” through colours and images.
Jake Makes A World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist In Harlem (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts Illustrated by Christopher Myers
Published by Museum Of Modern Art (2015)
ISBN: 0870709658 (ISBN13: 9780870709654)
Borrowed from Zayed Central Library Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Book photos taken by me.
The story begins with a very brief introduction of young Jake, and his neighbourhood in Harlem: from the preacher in the corner to the old men playing chess and checkers in the streets, “balancing the boards on their knees.”
As one reads on, it becomes apparent how integral Jake’s environment is to his artistic vision. Snapshots taken by his keen eye and bright mind are transformed as he goes to Utopia Children’s House after school, where he spends his time making art.
The Afterword provided a bit more information about Jacob Lawrence’s development as an artist and how he eventually became famous for his Great Migration paintings. I would have wanted a bit more information, though, about the Utopia Children’s House in the afterword as well, and a rough timeline of his works, and whether it coincided with the time that he was doing art in this Utopia House. It would be interesting to note whether the seeds of his artwork were discovered and refined through the time he spent in this place, which served as his sanctuary, giving him the opportunity to grow and develop as an artist.
At the time that I am drafting this review, I just watched the harrowing Netflix limited series When They See Us, also set in Harlem. Positioning this narrative alongside the preponderance (or lack) of opportunities provided to coloured youth in New York, or Harlem specifically, which served almost like another character in the story, would have made this story even more relevant, engaging, and substantive.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator are POC from United States of America.