Continuing our week of picture book biographies nominated for a 2015 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category, we have Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson and illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews himself.
This biography is told in a straightforward, sweet style. Benson starts with Benny Andrews traveling to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help the children whose lives had been torn apart cope a bit by expressing themselves through art. Incredible! Then the author goes back to the artist’s own childhood and recounts the difficult journey that he had made to reach this point of helping others.
Not many children’s picture book biographies are illustrated by the subject like this one. Most of Benny Andrews’s works are oil/collage and, although the reproductions in the book give a flavor of his work, unfortunately they can’t capture the three dimensional texture very well.
This short video of Benny painting shows a bit of what is missing.
As the video points out, even though everyone in his family worked in the cotton fields when he was growing up, they still found time to draw.
For serious scholars, the back matter contains “More about Benny Andrews,” an extensive two-page timeline of events in the life of Benny Andrews, “Sources and Resources,” and “More about the Art.”
Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews introduces the reader to a talented man who overcame great odds and tough situations to become a respected artist. It is a story that children will find both enjoyable and inspiring.
Related: A book like this cries out to be accompanied by an art project. Download a free study/activity guide for Benny Andrews at L&S Studios. (direct link to .pdf)
Age Range: 4 – 7 years
Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (January 6, 2015)
Have you seen this book yet? What did you think?
Monday: Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
Wednesday: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Thursday: Growing Up Pedro
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