for The People's Painter
by Cynthia Y. Levinson
and Evan Turk
Painter Ben Shahn used his art to tell stories about people who were outsiders in America, such as immigrants, prisoners, and Jews like Shahn himself. Born in a shtetl in Lithuania, he came to the United States as a child following his father’s imprisonment and eventual escape from Siberia for speaking out for fair pay for workers. As an immigrant, Shahn was bullied for being Jewish and struggled to learn English, but his talent for drawing was recognized. At age 14, he apprenticed to a lithographer, hand-lettering signs. He attended art school at night, but he wasn’t interested in creating landscapes; he wanted his art to reflect real people and their lives and experiences. In the 1940s and 50s, Shahn was accused of disloyalty to the government and questioned by the FBI because of his art. But he continued to depict the lives and work of activists, protesters, and ordinary people, which is why he came to be known as “the people’s painter.” Arresting illustrations in gouache, acrylic, pencil, chalk, and linoleum block print make a dramatic backdrop for this engaging account of Shahn’s life and work. (Ages 8-12)
CCBC Choices 2022. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2022. Used with permission.
A lyrically told, exquisitely illustrated biography of influential Jewish artist and activist Ben Shahn
A 2022 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Winner
A 2022 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Picture Book
"The first thing I can remember," Ben said, "I drew."
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 keen sense of justice, too.
So when Ben and the rest of his family make their way to America, Ben brings 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 teachers' insistence that he paint beautiful landscapes rather than true stories, by urging the US government to pass Depression-era laws to help people find food and jobs.
In this moving and timely portrait, award-winning author Cynthia Levinson and illustrator Evan Turk honor an artist, immigrant, and activist whose work still resonates today: a true painter for the people.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.