Reviews for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

by Javaka Steptoe

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Steptoe chronicles the formative years and evolving style of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Brooklyn-born graffiti artist with a rising career in the 1980s fine arts world; coverage ceases before his untimely drug-related death at age 27.Steptoes canvas is wood salvaged from the Brooklyn Museum and locales that Basquiat frequented. Spaces between the patched fragments contribute to the impression of a disjointed childhood. Steptoe shows that Basquiat was smart and driven early on, influenced by his Haitian fathers jazz records and his Puerto Rican mothers style, encouragement, breakdown, and institutionalization when he was only 7. Prior to that, she drew with him, took him to see Picassos Guernica, and gave him Greys Anatomy following a serious car accident. Images of body parts imprint his increasingly complex political paintings, along with other recurring motifs explained in outstanding backmatter. Several sentences per spread speak with understated lyricism and poignancy, an occasional internal rhyme underscoring a point: Jean-Michel is confused and filled with a terrible blues / when Matilde can no longer live at home. Acknowledging his multifaceted sense of connection, Steptoe interprets Basquiats style instead of inserting particular works. Vibrant colors and personal symbols channel the sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still BEAUTIFUL paintings, incorporating meticulously attributed collage elements and capturing the artists energy and mystery. Stellar bookmakinga riveting portrait of a young artist. (authors note, bibliography, biography) (Picture book/biography. 6-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The art world first took note of Jean-Michel Basquiat's graffiti in the late 1970s. He earned a large following and several art shows but was often discouraged by racism. Steptoe's style, similar to Basquiat's with its vivid palette and use of found objects, provides a close impression of the painter's work. Appended notes provide additional information about Basquiat's life and art. Bib. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.