Review of Just Being Dalí: The Story of Artist Salvador Dalí

Just Being Dalí: The Story of Artist Salvador Dalí
by Amy Guglielmo; illus. by Brett Helquist
Primary, Intermediate    Putnam    40 pp.    g
2/21    978-1-9848-1658-0    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1659-7    $10.99

This picture-book biography paints the Spanish surrealist artist as an imaginative, quirky person right from the start. As a child, he dreams of being a king and wears his king costume to school, puzzling others, but “Salvador was just being himself.” This refrain repeats throughout the book with slight variations, each time with the words displayed on an appropriately flamboyant banner. His complicated personality and role in the adult art world are challenging to convey to children, but Guglielmo makes a good attempt at highlighting some of Dalí’s odder moments (“He gave a speech inside a deep-sea diving suit”) in an objective way. Helquist’s oil paintings incorporate reproductions of famous pieces of art, which are all named at the back, and he includes a variety of skin tones in the other adults depicted (usually with disapproving expressions on their faces). He also shows many of Dalí’s more amusing-to-children inventions, such as a lobster phone or a hat in the shape of a shoe. An author’s note gives more information on Dalí’s life, and the selected bibliography includes other children’s books about the artist for readers whose interest has been piqued.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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