Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol by Bonnie Christensen

Cindy: I’ve read a few teen biographies about pop culture artist Andy Warhol but I have to admit I went into Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol (Henry Holt 2011) thinking, what? A picture book biography for young children of the controversial Warhol? I needn’t have worried. Obviously, Christensen left out some of the details of Warhol’s life, but there is plenty to interest young children. Andy’s troubles in school with reading and bullies, his third grade illness that left him with his blotchy skin tone, and his passion for drawing and art. The book is understated in many ways, but still imparts a lot of information, some of which readers bring by connecting the dots. For instance Christensen mentions the rows and rows of icon portraits that fascinated Andy on the walls of his church and combined with the illustration readers will later make the connection with Andy’s repetitive prints. And speaking of the illustrations, they are fabulous. The technique is described in Ilene Cooper’s starred review linked above, but the effect is worth talking about some more. The book utitlizes collage, a favorite style for me, and the illustrations include Christensen’s “replicas” of Warhol’s paintings. In a note on the verso page she expresses hope that young readers will seek out his originals in a museum.

Here’s another picture book that will be useful for a middle school classroom as well for a quick biography project or for the art teacher to share with a visual presenter, perhaps as an intro to a pop art unit. Or, how about as an intro to a journaling or essay-writing activity using some of Warhol’s quotes…there’s of course the one everyone knows about 15 minutes of fame, but I especially like the one that opens this book:

They always say that time changes things,
but actually you have to change them yourselves.
      –Andy Warhol

Check out this week’s Nonfiction Monday round up at Lori Calabrese Writes for more nonfiction blog posts.

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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.

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