Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of Fifty Famous Folks & All Thei

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of Fifty Famous Folks & All Thei

James Gulliver Hancock
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Chronicle Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-1452114569

We humans love to own things. We have “stuff” all around us, things that we treasure and that make us feel safe and comfortable. Sometimes these things beautify our lives, and sometimes we value them because of the places or people who are associated with them in our memories. For some people these things become “extensions of who they are.” When we think of Audrey Hepburn we picture her wearing the dark glasses that she wore so often. We see her holding the long cigarette holder that she used in her movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

   For this book the author offers his readers “visual summaries” of fifty famous people. The summaries are presented in the form of a series of illustrations that are placed around the portrait of the person being featured. The illustrations show some of the famous person’s stuff, but they also show us some of the “quirks” or “foibles” that the person had. The author wants to give us “glimpses into iconic figures’ personalities” by showing us the “props and events” that help tell their story in a new way.

   On the page featuring Charlie Chaplin we not surprisingly see a picture of the bowler hat and the cane that Charlie wore when he was playing his famous and much loved “tramp” character. We also learn that he directed seventy-five movies, and that he wrote all the music for his films. We find out that he came from very humble beginnings, and yet he became so famous that an asteroid was named after him.

   On Coco Chanel’s page we find out that she too had a rough start in life. The famous clothes designer grew up in a convent after her mother died and her father left. The nuns in the convent taught her to sew, and these skills would help her in her future career. After first making hats, Coco went on to design clothes and made the little black dress famous. She also created Chanel No. 5, a perfume which is still beloved by women all over the world today. Coco loved red wine and caviar and hated corsets.

   People of all ages are going to enjoy looking through this unusual book. Though it might seem a strange way to present the lives of people at first, one soon sees that the artwork provides us with a unique picture of a famous person, and we begin to appreciate how interesting and unique people are.