A Review of The People's Painter
Author: Cynthia Levinson
Illustrator: Evan Turk
Publisher: Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers
Year: April, 2021
JACKET COPY: As an observant child growing up in Lithuania, Ben Shahn yearns to draw everything he sees-- and, after seeing his father banished by the Czar for demanding workers' rights, he develops a sense of justice, too.
So when Ben and the rest of his family make their way to America, Ben brings with him both his sharp artistic eye and his desire to fight for what's right. As he grows, he speaks for justice through his art -- by disarming classmates who bully him because he's Jewish, by defying his teacher's insistence that he paint beautiful landscapes rather than true stories, by urging the US government to pass Depresssion-era laws to help people find food and jobs and more.
In this moving and timely portrait, Cynthia Levinson and Evan Turk honor an artist, immigrant and activist whose work still resonates today: a true painter for the people.
I honestly got chills as I read about Ben and his family's trials under the rule of Czar Nicholas II. As someone who firsthand walked through the palaces in St. Petersburg, Russia, the divide between the rich and powerful and the poor and helpless seems vast and almost insurmountable. And this is someone's true tale that shows just that. How inspiring how Ben drew upon that to make a difference in the world!
Many readers will identify with Ben -- he is just a kid who loves to draw. But despite that he suffers the effects of government, the effects of transplanting to a different country (with a different language and customs), as well as the effects of bullies.
Evan Turk's art brings the story to life in such a wonderful way, a style partly his own, but that nods to the actual art of Ben Shahn.
1. This is a wonderfully accessible way to introduce world history to students, with the perfect mix of art and social justice.
2. There is a strong theme of not only persisting, but of making a difference by doing what you love for all the right reasons.
3. Ben is a regular kid who used a talent to achieve great things. His story is heart-felt and inspiring.
The People's Painter is an inspiring tale for any one -- child or adult -- to see what one person can do with a pencil to fight for what is right. A MUST-READ for today's child and today's society!
Purchase The People's Painter here: https://amzn.to/3841hiQ
Check out Cynthia's other important books here: Cynthinia Levinson.
REVIEW BY: Lynne Marie
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten -- art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog's 100th Day of School -- art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play -- art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares -- art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World -- art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project -- art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press / CAW Publishing, November 2021) and American Pie -- art by Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press 2022).
She’s also the Owner and Administrator of both RateYourStory.org and ThePictureBookMechanic.com, as well as a long-time Travel Agent with PixieVacations.com (www.pixievacationsbylynnemarie.com)! She's been a Cybil's Judge in the Fiction Picture Books and Board Books category since 2016. Recently, she's been handed the ReFoReMo torch from Kirsti Call and Carrie Charley Brown, which will return under it's new name March On With Mentor Texts in March, 2022 (www.rateyourstory.org/march-on). You can join her at her weekly Tinker and Talk Book Chat here: Tinker and Talk Book Chat by The Picture Book Mechanic | Facebook
When she’s not searching for story ideas all over the globe, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. Visit her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of www.theseymouragency.com