This is an inspiring, interactive profile of the artist -- playful and jam-packed with information in text and images with an added perk: a brilliant insert of “mix ‘n match” self-portraits.
The book is based on an interview fifth-grade students did with the artist. An introduction provides a brief overview of who Chuck Close is, then sets the scene in which Close invites their queries: ʺSo . . . you have questions for me?ʺ
Close's early life and development into an artist is seamlessly covered. Each question and answer is set into a colored block with the question appearing at the top in a child’s handwritten note, lending visual interest and naturally leading readers from section to section. Close’s voice is always child-friendly. He is remarkably humble and makes all young strivers, especially those differently-abled, understand that they can reach their potential. For example: when asked why he started drawing, he responds that he was just a little better at it than others and kept practicing. His strategy was to use his art to do extra credit projects in school since, due to learning disabilities, he couldn't remember dates, read, or excel in math. Throughout, enthusiasts will find photos of the artist as a boy and young man along with examples of the art he was creating at the time. Later in life, Close had to overcome almost complete paralysis and create a method to continue painting. His discussion about various painting techniques is amplified by the inventive inclusion of “mix & match” self-portraits which allows readers to play by creating different combinations of paintings that always come together to create a full portrait. A timeline helps children keep straight the sequence of events and accomplishments in Close’s life. Paintings discussed appear again at the end of the book in a List of Illustrations. Bolded words throughout the text can be found in a handy Glossary.
Fans old and new will be struck by Close’s perseverance and devotion to his craft. There is no mystery here about being motivated by some ethereal muse, just a fine example of applying one’s self to achieve one’s goals.
Teacher tips: The book offers a great example of how to conduct an interview with an artist. Children may wish to replicate the process. Encourage research about a local talent, view his/her body of work to date, prepare questions, and arrange a visit to the studio. Students can transcribe the answers and put together a book to share all they learned about the artist with others.
Reviewed by JMcD
THEMES: ART. AUTOBIOGRAPHY. IDENTITY. PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. PERSEVERANCE. SELF-CONFIDENCE.
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012
Suggested Ages: 8-12