Monday, December 19, 2016

Non-fiction Monday: Radiant Child: the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child: the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe. unpgd. Little, Brown and Company, October, 2016. 9780316213882. (Review from purchased finished copy)

I had the privilege of attending the Little Brown spring preview, where I not only received an fng of this book, but got to view Javaka Steptoe's original art and listen to him speak about his research for the book and his artistic process. I read the fng immediately and posted a five-star quickie review to Goodreads. I also marked it as a 2016 favorite and intended to review it more fully here. I. Never. Did.

When all the starred reviews started appearing, I still somehow did not get around to reviewing it. Ugh! I am so lame! Now, it's deservedly appearing on many of the year-end "Best" lists. Last Thursday morning, I finally covered my school library's finished copy and, before displaying it on a shelf, sat down to reread it for the fifth or sixth time.

My love for this book has not diminished one iota. In fact, the finished copy is even more gorgeous. The care that went into this book shows on every page from the decorated end-pages to the portrait of Basquiat as a young man before the title page through the backgrounds for the title page and back matter. 

In a note, "About This Book," Steptoe explains that he emulated Basquiat and used "bits of New York City to create the artwork for this book." His "canvases" were textured pieces of wood retrieved from dumpsters and exhibit pieces discarded by the Brooklyn Museum. The art is simply stunning. Each double-page spread invites lingering as the textures and colors meld with other media such as colored pencils and tubes of paint. I find something new with each reread. 

The back matter includes a page with more information about the artist; an explanation of the motifs and symbolism used in the author/ illustrator's paintings and a note from Javaka Steptoe explaining his own connection to Basquiat and encouraging young artists to pursue their dreams.

Share this title with your art teachers. Radiant Child is a must-purchase title for all kinds of libraries. 

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