Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews
by Kathleen Benson
illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews
Clarion Books, 2015
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.
Picture book biographies are in demand at my elementary school library. Many classroom teachers ask students to select biographies to read as part of book challenges and reading units. When a child asks me for a biography recommendation, I often pull out books about people that are unfamiliar to young readers. Some of my favorite picture book biographies to recommend to children are Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas by Meghan McCarthy, and Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Draw What You See is an inspiring, picture book biography that recently hit shelves, and I'm looking forward to adding it to my list of recommended books. American artist, Benny Andrews, began drawing in 1933 at the age of three. His family worked in cotton fields in Georgia, and his mother made sure he went to high school instead of working in the fields. After college, Andrews traveled around the world with the Air Force. The G.I. Bill funded his tuition at art school in Chicago in 1954 where he painted people around him from jazz musicians to the janitors at his school. He continued to paint when he moved to New York City; he also fought to have the works of African American artists displayed in museums.
Kathleen Benson's narrative writing captures the essence of Benny Andrew's life and work in thirty-two pages. Andrews' oil and collage paintings make the perfect illustrations for a book about an artist who saw art everywhere. Before his death, Andrews traveled to New Orleans to work with children affected by Hurricane Katrina. He was a talented artist who used his art to help make an impact on society.
Benson includes a timeline, list of sources, and more information about the artist in the back of the book. Pair Draw What You See with A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet and The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan.