One thing that I like to do on my blog is to review books that inspire and delight me.
Such a book is Beautiful Shades of Brown, written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Felicia Marshall, Creston Books, launching on February 4th 2020.
This is the story of the African-American artist, Laura Wheeler.
Laura loves to paint her family members. Experimenting with color combinations, she’s excited to find out that there are so many shades of brown to match her sister’s cheeks, her mother’s hair and all of her family’s skin colors.
Laura dreams that one day her paintings will hang on museum’s walls but “That is a crazy idea for a 10-year-old…” because in 1897, African-American portraits don’t appear on museum’s walls!
Still, Laura turns her bedroom into her own museum, inviting family members to admire her art.
In her determination to become a professional artist, she leaves her beloved family and boards a ship for Paris, the center of the art world. Even though most of the students are white, Laura marvels at the art of many masters and hones her own painting skills.
When she meets the African-American singer, Marian Anderson, Laura gets the chance to paint the singer in wonderful shades of brown. She also paints many other notable African-Americans.
Her dream finally comes true when the Smithsonian Institution exhibits her paintings at the National Portrait Gallery.
Beautifully told, author Nancy Churnin manages to paint-with-words the African-Americans’ struggle to achieve recognition in the arts.
The illustrations are drop dead gorgeous. I would have loved to have one of the paintings on my own walls. In the author’s Notes, Churnin expresses thanks to artist, Madeline Murphy Rabb, the granddaughter of Laura’s brother, Arthur Edward Wheeler, for her help in writing Laura’s story and for granting permission to share Laura’s paintings from the Smithsonian.
A special bonus is the timetable and the reproductions of the actual paintings at the end of the book. A great addition to books about diversity and inspiring read for aspiring young artists.