Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America

Raczka, Bob. 2008. THE ART OF FREEDOM: HOW ARTISTS SEE AMERICA. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner. ISBN 9780822575085 [Suggested Grade Levels 3–5]

Raczka uses art to elevate the idea of America as a country from a collection of states to many abstract ideas that will get readers thinking. Phrased in the terms of “America is…” many concepts are presented; an idea, farms, cities, baseball, jazz, native peoples, immigrants, black and white, a rainbow, hard work, natural wonders, man-made marvels, the open road, and Main Street. The success of this book will be getting readers to think about the different things that America is to the vast population that calls it home.

Raczka simultaneously expresses that America means different things to different people and that art can exist in many forms. The concept of country is illustrated with Jasper Johns 1961 “Map” which contrasts starkly with the concept of sacrifice shown by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1897 “The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.” The artwork illustrating America as a work in progress features Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished portrait of George Washington that readers will recognize from the dollar bill.

Large white text pops from the alternating red and blue page backgrounds and reinforces the patriotic theme. While many picture books feature America the country, Raczka focuses instead on the elements or concepts that take America beyond a collection of states to a feeling of hard work, sacrifice, immigrants, man-made marvels, and freedom. End matter includes material about each artist and detail about their work or life, leading the interested reader to more research about the different artistic styles.

Have readers think about what America means to them and create artwork illustrating that concept.

Other books written by Bob Raczka:
ARTFUL READING. ISBN 9780822567547
WHERE IN THE WORLD. ISBN 9780822563716

By Tammy Korns

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