Chuck Close: Face Book
by Chuck Close
Intermediate, Middle School Abrams 56 pp.
4/12 978-1-4197-0163-4 $18.95
Chuck Close’s art and life story are the ideal way to introduce art and artists to children. His work is easy to describe and understand because he creates only portraits, but since he does them in almost every possible medium and they have an intriguing trompe l’oeil effect, they are especially attractive to children. But the kicker is the way his life story and so-called disabilities relate directly to his style. As a child, severe dyslexia made school difficult, but art class was easy. Likewise, his prosopagnosia (face blindness) made him especially interested in what made a face recognizable. His early canvases in hyper-realistic style showed large faces in a somewhat disturbing warts-and-all close-up, created from photos divided into small squares. Later, after what he calls The Event—a collapsed blood vessel that left him paralyzed from the chest down—his style changed, once again working within his new set of abilities. In this Q&A– style narrative, Close himself answers questions supposedly asked by children (shown on scraps of colored paper in a child’s handwriting). His voice is clear and direct with not a hint of famous artist self-aggrandizement or angst. Instead, he comes across as humble and content with his life. A central section answering a question about his penchant for self-portraits shows fourteen of them in a variety of media on heavy card stock cut into thirds so readers can mix and match eyes, noses, and mouths. The cut pages feel like a bit of a gimmick, though they will probably appeal to younger children. Including the same paintings as a wordless sequence of full pages might have shown the artist’s variety more clearly, but overall this is a welcome primary source about being an artist. An illustrated timeline, a glossary, a list of illustrations, and extensive resources are provided at the end of the book. (Lolly Robinson)
The Elephant Scientist [Scientists in the Field]
by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson; photos by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell
Intermediate, Middle School Houghton 71 pp.
7/11 978-0-547-05344-8 $17.99
Scientist O’Connell’s contributions to our understanding of elephant communication propel this account of scientific research in action. O’Connell and Jackson focus on the ways in which these animals communicate through vibrations sent through the ground, a technique O’Connell first observed in her masters degree work with insects, and later with African elephants in Namibia. They describe the findings in a way that lets readers witness the unfolding of a research program, as hypotheses lead to new insights that beget even more questions. Featured are observations of animal behavior, lab-based examinations of the cells in elephant feet and trunks that facilitate vibration sensing, and experiments with varying sounds and their effects on elephant herds. The many color photographs, predominantly from the Namibian field sites, capture the majestic elder elephants, their always appealing offspring, and the dusty, rugged landscapes in which the scientists and research assistants camp and work. Readers are directed to the website of the nonprofit organization founded by O’Connell and her husband, where they can view video of the communication experiments. Further reading, a glossary, selected source notes, and an index are appended. (Danielle J. Ford)
Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased
by Amy Novesky, illus. by Yuyi Morales
Primary Harcourt 32 pp.
2/12 978-0-15-205420-5 16.99
In 1939, O’Keeffe was commissioned by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later Dole) to tour Hawaii and create promotional paintings of its exotic fruit. But she fell in love with other features of the islands–volcanoes, tropical flora, rare coral–and stubbornly wouldn’t “be told what to paint.” Novesky’s lulling prose is matched by Morales’s elegant, paradisiacal acrylics inspired by O’Keeffe’s art. Reading list. (Katrina Hedeen)