Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

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Annotation: This visually stunning picture book documents the life of modern art phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose unique, collage-style paintings catapulted him to fame in the 1980s.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #129766
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: STEAM STEAM Common Core Common Core
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-21388-8 Perma-Bound: 0-605-95706-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-21388-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-95706-0
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2013018520
Dimensions: 28 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Beautifully evoking his subject's exuberant, colorful, and playful art style in jostling paintings on scraps of found wood, Steptoe introduces young readers to Basquiat's childhood and early career. Born in Brooklyn, Basquiat loved art early, and with the encouragement of his similarly artistic mother, he actively pursued his dream of being a famous artist, finding creative inspiration not only at museums but also in the color and rhythm of the city around him. Basquiat's signature style loppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still beautiful" ould appeal in particular to kids who find joy in free-form scribbles, and that same spirit animates Steptoe's collage illustrations. Thickly laid paints and exploded perspectives in bright hues depict scenes from Basquiat's life and highlight some of his iconic imagery, like golden cartoon crowns, eyeballs, and vehicles scattered everywhere. There's no mention of his problems with addiction or untimely death; rather, the book closes with him achieving his dream, crown overhead and surrounded by clipped headlines about his work. A lively, engaging introduction to a one-of-a-kind artist perfect for art-loving kids.
Publishers Weekly
In this visually arresting and vibrantly narrated biography, Steptoe (In Daddy-s Arms I Am Tall) charts the childhood of incandescent, ill-fated artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Although the book includes no work by Basquiat himself, Steptoe emulates 1980s street art by layering paint, paper scraps, paint tubes, and photos on found-wood panels. The artist, Steptoe writes, learned to see art in the -messy patchwork of the city,- the -street games of little children,- and the -terrible blues- of growing up. Basquiat-s early influences include his Puerto Rican mother, Matilde, who encourages him with museum visits and with the textbook Gray-s Anatomy. Poetry and his Haitian father-s jazz records fuel his imagination, too: -His drawings are not neat or clean, nor does he color inside the lines.- Basquiat-s radiance was suffused with trauma, and Steptoe alludes to Matilde-s mental illness and Basquiat-s teenage strife (-His mother-s mind is not well, and the family breaks-). Passing references to Warhol, Haring, graffiti, and Basquiat-s heroin overdose appear in the afterword: -Basquiat lived an exhilarating life, but... he struggled with a drug addiction until his death.- Overall, Steptoe focuses on Basquiat-s meteoric rise, and readers see the artist smiling as he walks on the gritty Lower East Side. Collaged photographs picture a crowded gallery, and Steptoe concludes in the present tense: -He is now a famous artist!- Steptoe downplays tragic elements, instead celebrating Basquiat-s irreverence and brilliance. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 15 One extraordinary artist illuminates another in this textured, heartfelt picture book biography of the 1980s cultural phenom. Employing signature features of Jean-Michel Basquiat's workvibrant colors, found objects, repeated motifsSteptoe allows his own emotionally rich style to shine through the artistic and biographical references dotting the illustrations. Pieces of discarded wood from Basquiat's stomping grounds fit together to form the painted surfaces for Steptoe's scenes of the Afro Puerto Rican artist, each unfolding within a colored frame. Occasional collage elements of newsprint, photographs, and art materials add dimension and immediacy, highlighting both artists' immersion in their work and surroundings. Adhering to a straightforward chronology, Steptoe addresses events in Basquiat's life primarily as they affected his artistic growth from young boyhood in Brooklyn through the triumphant years as a critical and popular success in Manhattan. With minimal detail, the author sensitively touches upon his subject's childhood car crash and his mother's mental illness, though the story avoids his drug use and stops before his early death. Crucial back matter provides context for readers in every respect. Additional biographical information fleshes out the lyrical text of the main narrative, and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat's work helps readers appreciate the layers at play in Steptoe's illustrations. An author's note articulates feelings that radiate from every page of the book: Steptoe's admiration for and attachment to Basquiat and his personal investment in depicting a complicated, loving relationship between a child and a mentally ill parent. VERDICT Pairing simple text with expressive, encompassing illustrations, this excellent title offers a new generation a fittingly powerful introduction to an artistic luminary. Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 794
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 1-4
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.7 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 183793 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:9.4 / points:3.0 / quiz:Q69284
Lexile: 1050L
Guided Reading Level: O

Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat's own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn't always have to be neat or clean--and definitely not inside the lines--to be beautiful.

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