drawIllustrating a picture book about an artist can be tricky. What do you draw to depict what he or she drew?

This unusual book neatly sidesteps the problem. The text recounts the events of Benny Andrews’ life in a straightforward way, but each spread is illustrated by a reproduction of one of his paintings. This is especially remarkable since the book was written several years after his death. The paintings are haunting, quirky, moving, flamboyant–the one thing they are not is forgettable!

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews, by Kathleen Benson, illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews. Clarion: 2015.

ivan

I was hesitant to read this picture book as I expected it to be a cynical rewriting of the Newbery Medal novel, The One and Only Ivan. So I was surprised that the only reference to the novel appeared on the cover, and that was almost incidental (“by Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate). Even the illustrator for this book is different from the illustrator for the novel.

This is an honest, straightforward biography of a gorilla who was displayed most of his life in a shopping center but ended his life in the Atlanta Zoo. The book starts poetically, “In leafy calm, in gentle arms, a gorilla’s life begins,” but the narrative voice in the rest of the book is much more matter-of-fact.

This book would pair well with the Newbery novel, but it’s fine by itself, as a look at how our attitudes toward animals in captivity have changed in recent times.

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Clarion: 2014.