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Review (Draw! by Raúl Colón)

Bibliography: Colón, Raúl. Draw! New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. ISBN-13: 9781442494923

Plot Summary: In artwork that goes from pale watercolors and hatching lines to richer, softer colored pencils, this book is about a young boy fantasizing about going on a safari after reading his books about Africa. He admires the animals and desires to draw them all. He bonds with an elephant and its cattle egret, who takes him to visit all the animals. The boy only has his easel, pencil, notepad, and lunch bag. He draws lions from a safe distance, shares lunch (and his hat) with the gorillas, and learns to placate a rhino on his adventure, and so much more. With this fantasy coming to an end, the boy in real life draws it out to share with his classmates.

Critical Analysis: There are no words in the picture book. No dialogue. We do not even learn the main character’s name. It is up to the reader to figure out who he is based on the rumpled bed sheets, the safari hat on his bed, the pencils and notepad near him. This kid is a dreamer and an artist. What the book does effectively is depicting which is real life and which is fantasy by changing the art style. As mentioned earlier, the story begins in watercolors, ultra-thin lines, with some hatched here and there to depict shadows and folds. As the story moves into fantasy, the lines are no longer so stark. The colors are warmer, deeper, and, seemingly, Colón switches to colored pencils which gives off a world that is softer, almost velvety-looking. The boy bonds with an elephant, the elephant’s cattle bird tags along, adding an amusing touch to the illustrations as it sits on the elephant’s head or back. When the boy finally ends his traveling, the cattle bird hides its face in its wing, as if crying while saying good bye. The book does well in showing the beauty and different facets of nature. This book will make any child desire to search outside themselves. This book encourages readers to invest in their own creativity.

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

Awards and honors: 2015 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children (Recommended); 2015 Star of the North Picture Book Award (Nominee); and 2016 Georgia Children’s Book Award-Picture Storybook (Finalist.)

Following excerpt is from The Horn Book, dated September 8, 2014 by Kathleen T. Horning:

“The story line is engaging and easy to follow, and, while it’s whimsical, the majesty of the animals comes through in both the boy’s sketches and the main illustrations. Colón’s pen-and-ink, watercolor, colored-pencil, and lithograph pencil pictures are nicely textured and tinged with golden hues.”

Connections: This book can teach children about analyzing images to decipher the story. Use it for an activity where children are to draw out a story without relying on words and to see how others interpret their work. This work can also connect children to learning about African landscapes and what animals live there.

Edited: 2/16/2020

Review (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut)

Bibliography: Barnes, Derrick, and Gordon C. James. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Evanston, Illinois: Agate Bolden, 2017. ISBN-13: 9781572842243

Plot Summary: Lush oil paintings depict an unnamed African-American boy that is excited to go see the local barber. As he takes his seat, the boy imagines how people will react to his haircut and how he will feel about it himself. He also observes and admires the African-American people around him and thinks of the possibilities of how they live their lives. Ultimately, when he goes to the barber shop, he feels empowered by the end.

Critical Analysis: While we do not learn the name of our protagonist, the reader finds a young boy brimming with happy confidence. He is also the sort of person that appreciates the art and labor a barber goes into doing his and other people’s hair. Near the end. he even proclaims, “Tip that man! Tip that man! It was worth it. It always is.” The boy narrates in a stylistic way that, while it does not rhyme, it does have a lyrical quality that will make anyone enjoy using this title for a read-aloud. Children will especially get joy as you can emphasize certain words and lines. While the plot seems simple enough: a young boy enjoying his haircut, there is a deeper meaning to the story. There has been much controversy surrounding schools demanding black children to wear their hair in certain ways only. Just recently, a boy was not allowed to walk for his high school graduation unless he cut off his locs. To see a young boy be proud of his hair, and to see him admire the hair of other men and a woman, announces two things: hair can be important to identity and black hair is beautiful in all its forms. The artist depicts African-American people by giving their skin almost a dewiness, and all are smiling confidently. The artist also depicts the diversity of skin tones, body types, and ages between everyone. This is clearly a book of love and empowerment for a community.

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

Awards and Honors: 2018 John Newbery Medal (Derrick Barnes); 2018 Caldecott Honor Book (Gordon C. James); 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Award Honor (Derrick Barnes); and 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Award Honor (Gordon C. James).

Following excerpt is from Publishers Weekly, dated August 28, 2017:

“Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in James’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable. Barbers included…”

Connections: Use this book to run an activity that teaches children about mixing colors with oil pastels. Because this book features oil paints made in different colors such as pinks and oranges and blues to depict the varying skin tones of its characters, have the children make self-portraits where they can use any color they want, whether it is to show what color best represents them or if they want to use colors to show what they feel. This text can also be used to teach about self-esteem and to connect with other books about being proud of one’s unique appearance and personality and other traits, such as Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, and Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman.

Edited: 2/16/2020