Yayoi Kusama: From Here To Infinity (Sarah Suzuki)

Hello, friends! Our book for today is Yayoi Kusama: From Here To Infinity, written by Sarah Suzuki and illustrated by Ellen Weinstein, a visually striking picture book biography of the Japanese avant-garde artist.

Yayoi was born in Japan in 1929, into a world of natural beauty and color. As a child, she would paint and draw the world around her – her home city of Matsumoto, the plants in her family’s nursery, the streams and forests of her youth – represented as colorful dots. Not everyone understood her dots: her family tried to train her to become a proper lady, and her art school teachers tried to force her to paint in the traditional Japanese style, but Yayoi’s inspirations could not be contained. She set off on her own to the United States, and painted at every chance she could get, creating more and more paintings and sculptures of her dots. Then one day, she was invited to show her work at a gallery – and people went wild for it. Yayoi travelled the world, creating art, then returned to Japan and continues to create and innovate to this day.

Fascinating! I was somewhat aware of Kusama’s work before reading this, and it was wonderful to learn more about her art and the life that inspired it – though I wish some mention might have been made of her long relationship with mental illness, and how she used art to channel her emotions and struggles. Still, the story is brief yet engaging, and the stylized art (inspired by Kusama’s work, naturally) is bold, vivid, and gorgeous. In fact, JJ especially loved the illustrations, and there were many pages that elicited a “Wow!” or “Oooo!” from both of us. The length is fine, and it was a fun and educational read. A pretty awesome portrait of a intriguing artist, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos (Monica Brown)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, a lovely storybook primer on the beloved artist.

Frida Kahlo had many passions, and two of them were painting and animals. She had many pets throughout her life: a parrot, spider monkeys, two turkeys, three dogs, a black cat, an eagle, and even a baby deer. The animals reflected much of Frida’s nature and history: she was curious and clever like a monkey, independent and resilient like a cat, and loved growing up in a lovely blue home the color of her parrot’s feathers. Even through sickness, injury, and loneliness, Frida took comfort in her animals and her art. And even today, her home is a sanctuary for the animals that inspired her.

This was a unique and sweet way to introduce Frida to a younger audience, and mostly succeeded in doing so. The layout of the story – introducing the animals first, then connecting them to various times, events, and themes of Kahlo’s life – is very engaging for little ones, and feature a loving look into Frida’s relationships with her family, her pets, and her culture. The art is lovely, combining a vintage storybook style with Frida’s own color palette. However, one quibble: not ONE of Kahlo’s painting was featured! The backmatter includes a photo and recommendations for paintings to look into, but no samples of Kahlo’s actual art can be found. It was a noticeable omission, and a disappointing one. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the illustrations, so we’re still going to recommend this one, but perhaps as a supplement to a fuller lesson on Kahlo and her work. Baby Bookworm approved!

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!