Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

Hester Bass
Illustrator:  E.B. Lewis 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Candlewick, 2009   ISBN: 978-0763635831

Walter Andersen lived “in a cottage at the edge of the Mississippi, where the sea meets the earth and the sky.” He was a strange man who would leave his home and his family for as long as several weeks at a time so that he could paint and write, observing nature and living on an uninhabited barrier island.

Early in the morning he would get up, pack up some food and art supplies and he would row out to Horn Island. It was hard work to row so far, but Walter did not mind. He knew that the island was waiting for him, as it always was.

Here he made friends with the birds, the rabbits, the raccoons, and feral hogs. He would brave storms, cold, heat, biting insects and other trials just to paint and draw the wonders that he saw on the island. He also kept journals in which he captured in words and pictures all that he saw and experienced. For him, his time on the island was priceless, and he did not want to share what he did and saw there with anyone. When he came home, Walter put his journals, drawings and paintings in his little studio room and locked the door. No one was allowed to enter that room. It was only after he died that his wife went in and discovered that the room was full of untold treasures.

With its beautiful illustrations and its lyrical text, this book serves as a fitting tribute to the man who may be “the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.” Hester Bass’s appreciation of, and affection for Walter Anderson and his art comes through on every page, and readers will understand what a singular and special man the artist was.

An author’s note at the back of the book provides readers will further information about the artist, and it also tells the story of what happened to his paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other art works after his death.