Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Jen Bryant
Illustrator:   Melissa Sweet 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2013   ISBN: 978-0375867125

On February 22, 1888, Horace Pippin came into the world. The grandson of a slave, Horace did his part to help out by doing chores and taking care of his siblings. At the end of the day, once all the work was done, Horace used to draw pictures, capturing on paper the things that he had experienced and seen during the day. He also drew pictures at school, delighting his classmates and infuriating his teacher.

   One day Horace entered a drawing contest and to his delight he won. The prize he received was a package of art supplies, and he was thrilled to own his very own colored pencils, brushes, and paints. Even when Horace had to leave school to work, he kept on creating pictures for himself and for his coworkers. Then, when World War I broke out, Horace left his home, joined the army, and went to serve his country in Europe. For days, sitting in a trench, Horace did not see the sun. When there was a lull in the fighting Horace drew pictures for himself and for his soldier friends who asked him to “Make a picture for us, Horace!”

   Then Horace was shot in the shoulder. His right hand could not move normally, nor could he use it to lift things. For the first time since he was a little boy, Horace could not paint or draw. It was as if a door to a special world had been closed in his face.

   In this remarkable picture book biography, Jen Bryant’s emotive text is paired with Melissa Sweet’s splendid mixed media artwork. On several of the pages the artist incorporates hand lettered quotes into the artwork, giving us a very personal connection with the thoughts and feelings of one of America’s great artists.

   Notes at the back of the book written by the author and illustrator give us some insight into the journey that they took, together, to find out about Horace Pippin, his work, and his legacy.