Silent Days, Silent Dreams

Say, Allen. Silent Days, Silent Dreams. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017.
What must it be like to be deaf and mute? What must it be like to be autistic and perhaps even dyslexic, as well?
James Castle was born in 1899 on a farm in Utah. He spent most of his life in an abandoned chicken house and a small mobile home creating astonishing works of art. Drawing with sticks dipped in soot and saliva on scraps of discarded paper, he produced thousands of pictures before his death in 1977. Today, his work is shown in major galleries around the world.
Allen Say’s stunning picture book about the life of James Castle is told from the point of view of the artist’s nephew. It is hauntingly illustrated using materials similar to the artist’s and supplemented with an extensive author’s note and bibliography. Highly recommended for readers and artists 11 years old and up.

More books about autism

Waiting…

Haseley, Dennis. Twenty Heartbeats. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2008.
We are often so sure of our thoughts. So sure of our beliefs. Sometimes, though, we are so wrong that when we discover our error, we can scarcely breathe. That abrupt enlightenment is at the heart of this picture book illustrated by the inimitable Ed Young.
A wealthy man hires an artist to paint a picture of his favourite horse. Years pass. The painting does not arrive. Finally, enraged, the man goes to the artist. Where is the painting? What has taken so long?
This elegant reflective story is recommended for readers and listeners six years old and up. You’ll smile and listen differently afterwards.

(Note to aspiring writers and illustrators: Notice the feeling at the end of the story: the sense of being pulled up to a sudden stop. Look at the last illustration: notice the posture of the horse. Then think about the power of illustrations to do more than show the events of a story.)

More books about art

More philosophical stories

More picture books with collages

What do you see?

Verplanke, Klaas. Magritte’s Apple. New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, 2016.
Each artist has a unique vision of the world. René Magritte’s vision was a fantastical world of floating boulders and ships made of water. This gentle picture book humorously introduces readers to Magritte’s surrealist style. The full-page illustrations inspire wonder and encourage reflection. The historical notes at the end provide background information. Useful as an introduction to surrealism or a discussion on creativity.

More about surrealism HERE.

More books on artists HERE.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

Canadian, eh?

Patterson, Heather. I Am Canada: A Celebration.Toronto: North Winds Press, 2017.
What does it mean to be a Canadian? This book joyously answers the question in simple language suitable for young children. The illustrations take the book to a whole new level: Marie-Louise Gay, Jon Klassen, Barbara Reid and other Canadian artists depict Canada, each in their own unique style. A wonderful book for art students and a great book as a read-aloud for children up to 8 years of age.

More books by Canadian authors HERE

Stories set in Canada HERE

When I am famous…

Steptoe, Javaka. Radiant Child: the Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Brilliant double-page illustrations help tell the true story of a collage-style New York artist who died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of 27. The colour, energy, and detail in Steptoe’s paintings are astonishing.  An afterward tells more about both Basquiat and Steptoe and could be used to start all sorts of discussions about the effects of childhood experiences and the nature of creativity. This sophisticated picture book – winner of the Caldecott Medal – is highly recommended for artists of all ages.

More stories of people of African heritage HERE

More biographies HERE

Living Through War

McMullan, James. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin, 2014.

Do you ever feel like you’re not quite good enough? That you can’t ever please your parents? That you don’t belong anywhere? Read this memoir about an artist who grew up moving from country to country – from China to Canada to India and finally to the U.S.A. – and who is now a highly acclaimed designer and illustrator. This 113-page autobiography with full-page illustrations is recommended for readers 10 years old and up.

More picture book memoirs HERE

More stories about moving HERE  

More stories about World War II HERE