Reviews for Story Painter : The Life of Jacob Lawrence


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 October 1998
Gr. 5^-8. Some of Jacob Lawrence's thrilling narrative painting series have been adapted for children's books, including The Great Migration (1993) and Harriet and the Promised Land (1993). This handsome biography, with 50 full-page color reproductions and lots of small photos, develops the theme of the artist's personal migration, beginning with his parents' move from the South and then the excitement of the boy Jacob, "Jake," when he moved to Harlem during the artistic renaissance in the 1930s. Lawrence's tempera paintings will invite young people to look closely as they read about the artist's life and work, including his technique and the inspiration he found in the Mexican muralists. There's a short bibliography and brief notes at the back about each painting, but there are no source notes, not even for quotes about how Jake felt and what he imagined. The presentation of Lawrence's historical subjects--Touissaint-Louverture, the Underground Railroad, migration, civil rights, and more--will stimulate group discussion about the African American experience and also about "everyone's search for a better life." ((Reviewed October 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1999
The use of Lawrence's paintings both to illustrate significant points in his life as well as to show his artistic accomplishment adds a great deal to a text that is readable and informative. This visually striking, well-researched biography of one of the premier African-American artists of the contemporary era will be a welcome addition to school and public libraries. Bib. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1999 #2
Here is a visually striking, well-researched biography of one of the premier African-American artists of the contemporary era. Duggleby recounts the story of Jacob Lawrence's life: his birth in 1917 to parents who had left the South for a better life in the North; his enrollment in an after-school program at Utopia's Children's House in Harlem, where he met his first art teacher, Charles Alston, and began to hear stories about the roles African Americans played in history; his decision to paint those historical stories; his innovation of series paintings such as the Toussaint L'Ouverture series, the Great Migration series, and the Harriet Tubman series-all stories he felt were too big for one painting. The use of Lawrence's paintings both to illustrate significant points in his life as well as to show his artistic accomplishment adds a great deal to a text that is readable and informative. It would have been helpful to have more discussion about Lawrence's distinctive style and technique, and readers interested in those aspects of Lawrence's work will need other sources. Still, this will be a welcome addition to school and public libraries. With a brief bibliography. deborah taylor Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1998 October #2
With the same care that he lavished on his biography of Grant Wood (Artist in Overalls, 1996), Duggleby shows how the vibrant, textured paintings of Jacob Lawrence ``symbolized the search for a better life by people of all races throughout history.'' His chronicle sets forth more than 25 full-color reproductions of Lawrence's rich paintings, many of which illustrate the African-American experience, from the migration from the South to the North to the Harlem Renaissance; the artist also honored such heroic figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. The language Duggleby uses is straightforward but evocative, often allowing the paintings to ``speak'' for themselves. Young readers will come away not only with a sense of the life of Lawrence, but with a sense of how artists convey meaning with images instead of words. (bibliography) (Biography. 6-12) Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 September #2
Duggleby (Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood) once again enlarges upon themes in an American artist's life and work to create a gratifying portrait of a particular time and place. Lawrence's expressionistic, stark paintings, in excellent full-page color reproduction, together with an artful layout incorporating the artist's blocky color fields and rhythmic patterns, nicely complement Duggleby's measured account of a materially poor but culturally rich childhood and Lawrence's subsequent struggles and successes. The author subtly works in the effect of the dearth of materials during the Depression on Lawrence's emerging style as well as the artist's mission to convey the legacy of African Americans in his series paintings. The painter's links to the Harlem renaissance, the segregated military, civil rights and black pride movements are explored through anecdotes, photographs, paintings and opening quotes for each chapter, by such contemporaries as Langston Hughes, Fats Waller and Martin Luther King Jr. Excerpts from Lawrence's Toussaint L'Ouverture (1937-1938), Migration of the Negro (1940-1941) and Harriet and the Promised Land (1967) series provide lessons in earlier black history as well as art appreciation, and pave the way for his milestone acceptance in the art world at large. This solid work of biography/art history commemorates an extraordinary living artist and pays tribute to Lawrence's determination, optimism and originality. Ages 6-12. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 1998 December
Gr 4-8-A thoughtful, accessible account of the life of one of the pioneers of 20th-century American art. Beginning with Lawrence's birth in 1917, the book touches on the pivotal events of his life and career. The difficulties he has faced as an African American striving to succeed in a white-dominated field are dealt with adeptly. Background information for Lawrence's subjects, including Harriet Tubman and the Great Migration, is worked seamlessly into the text. Duggleby frequently describes the artist's paintings and the influences that led to their creation as a way of allowing readers to see into Lawrence's world through his own artwork. Full-page color reproductions that relate to the discussion face each page of text. The author does his best to present Lawrence's life as a story, which, unfortunately, means including unsubstantiated, potentially fictional dialogue, as well as people's "thoughts." However, youngsters will certainly find this book entertaining, and perhaps even inspirational. Nancy Shroyer Howard's Jacob Lawrence (Davis, 1996) is more of a browser's book; Story Painter is a worthy purchase even if you already have Howard's book.-July Siebecker, Hubbard Memorial Library, MA Copyright 1998 School Library Journal

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 October

Gr 4-8--The best way to enjoy this wonderful audiobook biography is with a copy of Duggleby's fabulous print version in hand. While each chapter unfolds the inspiring and often-difficult life of Jacob Lawrence, the real story is told by his paintings, 25 of which are reproduced in full-page glossy illustrations. Each event in the artist's life and the person who influenced him became a subject for his paintings. His parents moved North, much like many African Americans at the time, seeking a better life, and the Great Migration became his inspiration for a series of artwork. After he moved with his mother to Harlem in 1930, Lawrence became a part of the artistic community and learned more about his ethnic heritage from the residents than he did in school. He taught others about black heroes such as General Toussaint L'Ouverture and Harriet Tubman through his paintings, and eventually, in books; but he also painted the life events around him, telling stories of segregation, the civil rights movement, and life in the military with bright tempera colors. Myra Lucretia Taylor reads slowly and carefully, allowing listeners to digest each fact and achievement before moving on. Although the book's format may make readers think that it is a picture book, the chapters are substantial, providing a well-detailed outline of the life of one of America's foremost black artists. With the historical and cultural information that is included, this would serve as a wonderful introduction to the Harlem Renaissance or a study of American painters.--MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

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