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Review of Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: Designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: Designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
by Jeanne Walker Harvey; illus. by Dow Phumiruk
Primary    Ottaviano/Holt    32 pp.
5/17    978-1-250-11249-1    $17.99

In its early pages, this quiet and contemplative picture-book biography sets up artist-architect Maya Lin’s fascination with spaces, natural and human-made, and their dynamic relationship with phenomena such as light. The daughter of two Chinese-immigrant artists, a potter and a poet who “never told Maya what to be or how to think,” Maya honed both her creativity and her intellect as a child. She went on to study architecture, a fusion of “art, science, and math,” in college. During her senior year at Yale, Maya entered a national contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, inspired by its guideline that the design must blend with the park setting. That a twenty-one-year-old novice beat out 1,420 other candidates, many of them famous architects, is intrinsically captivating fodder for a picture book, and Lin’s conviction about her own design in the face of public backlash is a built-in lesson in perseverance. Appropriately, the book’s muted art has the fine lines, precision, and spatial astuteness of architectural drawings, and Phumiruk’s use of perspective is often striking. A wide double-page spread of the finished memorial, for instance, impressively captures its length as the wall of fallen solders’ names stretches diagonally toward the horizon. Harvey’s text makes thoughtful, relatable connections between Lin’s work and the themes of her life; an author’s note adds supplementary details on the memorial’s design and touches on Lin’s later work.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.

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