Review of You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce

The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah PierceYou Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce
by Chiquita Mullins Lee and Carmella Van Vleet; illus. by Jennifer Mack-Watkins
Primary    Kokila/Penguin    40 pp.
1/23    9780593406502    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593406519    $11.99

Elijah Pierce was a Black Mississippi folk artist born in 1892 in a log cabin. In this imagined encounter, a young Black boy gets his hair cut at Pierce’s barbershop and is treated to a tour of the barbershop’s art gallery, featuring Pierce’s wood carvings. “Sculptures and walking sticks. Models and message signs…Everyday people. And famous people. Everything I carve, I want it to tell some kind of story.” Mack-Watkins uses printmaking techniques and mixed-media collage to create colorful, textured art representing Pierce’s folk art. The brief narrative works on several levels. It showcases the artist and his work and how he was instrumental in the growing recognition of folk art in the American art scene. We also see how Pierce’s art inspires a young boy’s burgeoning interest in making art of his own. The story would pair well with Tate and Christie’s It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (rev. 5/12). Back matter includes an authors’ note, images of Pierce’s art, an artist’s note, a timeline, and a list of museums where Pierce’s work is shown.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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