written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Radiant Child is a stunningly illustrated picture book biography about modern art phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat, written and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award winner Javaka Steptoe.
Jean-Michael Basquiat was a young biracial artist who shot to fame in the 1980s. His vibrant collage-style paintings were unlike anything the art world had seen before. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn, where he was inspired by his surroundings and by his artistic mother who often took him to museums.
Basquiat saw art everywhere: in poetry, in books, in games, in words, and in the pulsing energy of New York City.
Some of Jean-Michael Basquiat’s expressive paintings
Radiant Child focuses mainly on the positive aspects of Basquiat’s artistic growth, from his childhood to his famous years. Appropriate to the young reader audience, Steptoe only touches briefly on Basquiat’s traumatic experiences of a childhood car crash and his mother’s mental illness that eventually led her to leave her family. The story doesn’t mention Basquiat’s drug abuse or his early death due to a heroin overdose.
Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork – inspired by Basquiat’s style – capture the artist’s energy beautifully and sends the powerful message to young readers that art doesn’t have to be neat or conform to anything to be beautiful.
A heartfelt author’s note highlights Steptoe’s personal attachment to Basquiat’s work, explains the symbolism in the artist’s paintings and gives more detailed biographical information. Suitable for ages 6 to 12.
Radiant Child received a lot of praise (New York Public Library 2016 Best Books for Kids Pick, Kirkus Best Children’s of 2016 Choice, School Library Journal Best of 2016 Choice) and is a likely Caldecott 2017 Award contender.
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