Before They Were Famous by Bob Raczka

51latc1pykl_sl500_aa300_1Lynn: In his introduction to Before They Were Famous:  How Seven Artists Got Their Start (Millbrook 2010) Bob Raczka tells of chancing on a painting Pablo Picasso did when he was only 8 years old.  Raczka wondered if he could find childhood creations from other famous artists and this intriguing book was born.  He was able to find early work by seven artists ranging from a beautiful drawing made by Albrect Durer to a lovely landscape by Salvador Dali that he painted over the top of a postcard when he was 10 or 11.

Raczka provides a one-page biography of each artist and reproductions of both the childhood work and representative adult work.  The art work is beautifully reproduced and the book design is uncluttered and enticing.  Raczka’s text is conversational and accessible for young readers, deftly taking the stuffiness out of art appreciation and making it fun.  The captions under the artwork are wonderful, directing reader’s attention to details in the work.  He dedicates the book to every kid who loves to draw and the whole approach is wonderfully encouraging.

I love this book for all ages really.  I read it together with our focus group and they really enjoyed it although I think it is better for a somewhat older audience.  Me?  I’m saving ALL my grandchildren’s art work!

Cindy: Well, apparently it is unofficially Bob Rackza week at Bookends. We don’t normally blog two books back to back by the same author, but since these are from different publishers and because we had some scheduling changes as we scramble to organize the 2011 post-ALA blog schedule, it turns out that it is Bob’s week to shine. Both of these blogs have been in the works for a while. Completely different from Guyku, this book is a treat for budding artists. We tend to think of these artists as being “adult” painters but it’s clear that their talent began in their youth. I love the nurturing parents portrayed in many of the short biographies…support given to the children in the form of art rooms, materials, apprenticeships, etc. Years ago I read The Passion of Artemisia when I served on BBYA and just heard Susan Vreeland speak at the Booklist Fiction Forum at ALA. What fun to see a teen painting of Artemisia Gentileschi in this collection, the sole female represented. Rackza includes interesting quirky information too, did you know that Salvador Dali’s melting watches were inspired by eating some soft Camembert cheese? HA. And, I’m with Lynn. My oldest daughter is minoring in art in college and I have saved many of her elementary and secondary school paintings for posterity just in case.

nonfiction_mondayHead over to NC Teacher Stuff for today’s Nonfiction Monday blog round up of youth nonfiction.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

5 Comments on "Before They Were Famous by Bob Raczka"

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  1.' Alex Baugh says:

    I love to read about famous people when they were young and their passion was still in the budding stage. These kinds of books make them feel more human and less like icons. Thanks for pointing the way to this book.

  2.' Angela says:

    I still remember Passion of Artemisia – LOVED that book, and I think I’ll take a look at this one just to see her painting! (Also, I think I’ll have to re-read Passion of Artemisia…)

  3. Angela, Vreeland has a new book out, Clare and Mr. Tiffany about the female brains and designer behind his famous stained glass. Lynn and I scored autographed copies at the exhibit hall! And, I’m all for rereading Passion of Artemisia, preferably in preparation for a trip to Florence!!!! :)–Cindy

  4. What a fascinating book; I really enjoy reading about artists, this is next up now! I saved many of my children’s “artworks” and have some hanging in my office now…such great memories they evoke daily! Thank you for this posting.

  5.' Sue Cowing says:

    Thanks for this post. I collect art books for children–for my own pleasure–and I will definitely have to add this one. Such an intriguing subject. I’m glad Dali is included here. The wonderful Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida has large collection of paintings from throughout his life, including the period in the 1920’s when he was emulating and mastering quite a number of diverse styles of portrait, landscape, and still life, none of them surreal. I like to show postcards of these early paintings to people and say, “All of these were panted by one man, a famous twentieth century artist. Guess who?” No one has guessed, and many don’t believe one person could have done them all.

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