Review of Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott

Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott
by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary, Intermediate    Knopf    48 pp.    g
6/21    978-0-525-64811-6    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-525-64812-3    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-64813-0    $10.99

This poignant picture-book biography opens on an illustration of Joyce Scott and her twin sister Judith as children, snuggled in bed “like two spoons nesting in a drawer.” Joyce and Judith do everything together until Judith, who has Down syndrome and is later also diagnosed as deaf, is sent away to an institution when the girls are seven years old. Judith spends thirty-five bleak years in the facility until Joyce brings her to California and enrolls her in a nonprofit art studio for adults with disabilities. There, Judith begins to create the astounding pieces, consisting of colorful fibers and found objects woven tightly together, which will bring her renown. The tender and evocative narration is written in the first person, present tense, which lends intimacy and immediacy to the story. Meanwhile, Sweet’s illustrations evolve with the narrative, from sunny colored pencil for the girls’ childhood to more subdued hues during Judith’s institutionalization. Sweet (Caldecott honoree for A River of Words and The Right Word, rev. 11/14) then switches to her signature vibrant mixed media to represent Judith’s later years and fiber art. Text and illustration join together beautifully to tell a story of art, resilience, and familial love. Appended with author and illustrator notes, a list of sources, further information about Down syndrome, and a timeline of disability rights.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Rachael Stein
K Rachael Stein

K Rachael Stein is the digital resources analyst at Southern Maryland Regional Library. She blogs at

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