When I read a recent article about the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book and realized that she, like so many other artists, fled Europe and the Nazis during World War II, I knew that I had to find, and review, this new picture book biography.
Title: Out of this World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington
Written By: Michelle Markel
Illustrated By: Amanda Hall
Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers/2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: biography, female artist, surrealism, refugee
Leonora’s parents wanted her to be like every other well-bred English girl.
But she was not.
At the age of four, Leonora started scribbling on the walls, then on paper, and soon the pictures came flooding out….
Brief Synopsis: The biography of Leonora Carrington, an English artist who created colorful, fantasy-filled art featuring strong females.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about surrealism and try creating your own surrealistic artwork;
- Carrington’s art features strong females. Think of a woman that you consider strong (either someone you know or someone you’ve learned about, like a politician, actor or artist). Use your imagination to think of some objects that remind you of that woman. Draw a picture combining that female and these objects.
Why I Like this Book:
Out of this World combines beautiful text and gorgeous illustrations to tell the life of an artist who defied societal norms to follow her imagination. Markel shares that Leonora found inspiration in nature, in the legends told by her Irish grandmother, and in fantastic tales. Leonora drew from a young age, even scribbling on walls at age 4, and kept drawing, letting her imagination spill forth, throughout her life.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that she was the youngest and only female in a group of Surrealist artists in Paris early in her career. But after fleeing the Nazis and settling in Mexico, she became friends with a fellow female artist, and went on to create fantastic artwork featuring strong females. As Markel concludes, art “was a way to love the universe and understand it.” It was also a way to share her perception that “women have special gifts; they can do things beyond anybody’s wildest dreams”, which, as Markel notes, “is marvelous, and it’s powerful, and it’s true.” I think young artists and young feminists will be inspired by this biography to follow their imaginations, wherever they may lead.
Hall’s colorful watercolor inks and gouache illustrations are filled with images that evoke those that Leonora herself created. Many are two-page spreads that act as a window into Leonora’s imagination and art.
A Note about Craft:
Markel uses words such as imagination, dreaminess, magic, fantastic, and mystical throughout the text. These terms could also be used to describe the artwork Leonora created. It makes me think that Markel viewed Leonora’s work, jotted down words that came to mind, and then used them to describe her life. Doing so helps the reader understand Leonora’s life and work better, too, and is a technique writers can use, I think, when writing non-fiction.
For an informative recent interview with Hall about the creation of Out of this World including its genesis and the challenges of depicting the life of someone whose artwork is still protected by copyright, see Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating.
This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!