A Splash Of Red: The Life And Art Of Horace Pippin (Jen Bryant)

Hello, friends! Today’s review is A Splash Of Red: The Life And Art Of Horace Pippin, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This beautiful picture book biography tells the story of American artist Horace Pippin, who overcame poverty, war, and a debilitating injury to become a beloved artist in his time.

Horace Pippin was born in 1888 to a family of loving sisters, mother, and grandmother. From childhood, he was encouraged to work hard and help his family with his hands – but at night, when the work was done, he was also encouraged to pursue his passion for drawing. Using a piece of charcoal on scraps of paper, he would sketch pictures for his doting sisters, even winning art supplies in a mail-in art contest. But when he returns home from WWI with a severe injury to his drawing arm, he is forced to give up his art and, no longer able to do manual labor, takes odd-jobs to support his family. But Horace’s passion cannot be contained forever: feeling the need to create art, he develops a method of painting with both hands, and eventually becomes a famous and prolific artist.

We really liked this look into the life of a man determined to create. It really was remarkable Horace as he feels such a call to art that he continues to pursue it, no matter the obstacle, and with no real hope or guarantee of being a success at it. Horace is a wonderful role model, and his story is told beautifully here. Especially lovely are the illustrations, which capture life, mood, and character gorgeously in a style that emulates Pippin’s paintings. The length could border on too long for smaller readers, but it was a intricate and vibrant art that kept JJ fascinated through to the end. A fantastic biography of a true artist, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 (Michelle Markel)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, a picture book biography of Clara Lemlich, one of the organizers of a massive protest of garment workers at the turn of the century.

To look at Clara Lemlich when she arrived in New York City, she wouldn’t have looked like much: five feet tall, only seventeen years old, and barely able to speak English. When her father could not find work, Clara went to work in a garment factory sweatshop to help provide for her family. She found the conditions to be deplorable, and the managers and bosses to be cruel and corrupt. Unwilling to be treated unfairly, Clara encouraged her fellow workers to form a union and strike, facing intimidation, arrest, and even violence in her pursuit of a safe and fair working environment. Eventually, this brave young immigrant would help organize a walkout of 20,000 workers, inspiring similar strikes across the country and forcing employers to create fair working conditions for their employees.

This one was fabulous! Oftentimes with picture book biographies, the length is either too much for one sitting or not long enough to tell a cohesive or satisfying story. But this one was told clearly and powerfully, yet briefly enough for little bookworms to make it through in one sitting. And it’s a great story: the tale of a brave young woman with an emphasis on education, courage, justice, and the power of both united people and women in general. The illustrations were lovely, and peppered with some truly clever mixed-media elements that made it stand out. JJ and I both really enjoyed this look at a real-life feminist hero, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved!