Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

MayaLin

Image Credit: Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan Publishing Group), Jeanne Walker Harvey/Dow Phumiruk

This Women’s History Month, I’m sharing an upcoming (May 2017) picture book about the talented and influential, Maya Lin.

Maya Lin grew up in a creative household; her father a clay artist and her mother a poet. She was encouraged by her immigrant parents to dream and create. Nature was very important to young Maya and would continue to be influential as she grew and developed as an artist and architect.  When she was a senior in college, her understanding of nature, space, design and sensitivity would lead her to win a design competition for the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Lin received a great deal of push back for her design but held her ground. She showed the world her strength and stood her by creation. What’s special about the memorial is its symbolism, seamless integration into nature and how it makes those who experience it feel. Her art is meant to be experienced; the reflective granite of the memorial, with its thousands of names, elicits reflection.

Phumiruk’s soft, detailed digital illustrations suit this story. I love the first spread of the book where we see the mossy green “Lizard’s Back” hill Lin explored with her brother as a child. I like how Phumiruk uses an aerial perspective for a few key spreads. Seeing Lin from above, surrounded by nature & as she admires the architecture of her college library, highlights how much she was affected by her surroundings as a young artist. The cover of the book is striking too; Maya Lin gazes at her creation, seeing herself reflected while reading the name of a friend’s father who died in the war. The cover illustration reminds me just how important “mirrors” are for children of color and native children.

I really enjoy biographies for children that tell the lives and experiences of people who are living; children take a lot away from the fact that the person is STILL out there dreaming and making change. There simply aren’t enough books about Asian American creatives, let alone Asian American female creatives and I’m glad for this one. Walker Harvey’s great storytelling and Phumiruk’s lovely illustrations make this an important book to add to your collection.

 

 

Recommended for: 2nd grade and up
Great for: Biography, Architecture, Women’s History Month, Strong Women, Asian American, Chinese American, Girl Power, Girls In Stem, Determination, Dreams, Creativity, Family, Memorials, History
Book Info: Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey/Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, 2017 Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan Publishing Group), ISBN: 9781250112491

 

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

Funny Bones

Image Credit: Abrams, Duncan Tonatiuh

Author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh is one of my current favorites. I love not only the abundance of cultural and historical information in his picture books but his art style is simply amazing. It’s so smooth and modern while being unique and a throwback to his indigenous Mexican heritage. Does it get better than that? Not really and that’s why I’m loving his books so much.

Because Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is coming up soon, I’m discussing his newest book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. I’ve had an interest in Dia de Los Muertos ever since I taught a lesson about it to my Korean students. I wanted to expose them to a cultural tradition that was different but similar to one of their own. Koreans celebrate a holiday called Chuseok where they honor and pray for their dead ancestors. Since there are some similarities to Dia de Los Muertos, I thought the kids might really get something out of it!

Tonatiuh does an excellent job of making culture, art critique and history accessible to kids. Some kids really enjoy the bio books and I think they’ll love this one. We learn about the life and art of Mexican artist Posada who is responsible for making the crazy and vibrant Calavera (bone people) illustrations popular. He also documented important political events like the Mexican Revolution.

What I enjoyed most about this picture book is how Tonatiuh encourages children to do art critique. He reproduces Posada’s art, blends it with his own and poses questions about the meaning of the art all while telling Posada’s story. This is awesome! Because the book is partially about Dia de Los Muertos, it encourages you to think about life and death. This may seem heavy but like the holiday, it is about the celebration of life as well as the celebration of a great Mexican artist!

Recommended for: Ages 7 and up
Great for: History, Art History, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Holiday, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, Artist Bio, Biography, Non-Fiction, Mexico
Book Info: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015 Abrams, ISBN: 9781419716478