Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This is a wonderful picture book biography of the artist Ernie Barnes. Growing up in the South in the 1940’s, football was the way open to him to make a living, but he always made art. After stints in the NFL and the AFL, he became the official artist of the AFL. Wallace describes the ease with which Barnes was able to enter the world of sports, and also how racism barred his way to the world of art. He was self motivated and kept drawing during his football career despite getting fined $50 each time his coach found him drawing! Engaging text places Barnes’ struggles and achievements in historical context. Collier’s richly textured watercolor and collage illustrations show Barnes as a relatable figure and make him come alive to the reader. Substantial back matter adds more depth to the subject, including reproductions of Barnes’s art, resources and author and illustrator notes. I love that this book shows that Ernie Barnes was at the intersection of art and sports, which kids tend to think of as incompatible subjects. What a great read aloud for early elementary school classrooms!
To whom would you recommend this book? Offer this to anyone looking to broaden their knowledge of African-American artists, especially during February’s African-American History Month.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Biography
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: February 8, 2018