Multicultural Book of the Month: Radiant Child

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Multicultural Book of the Month: Radiant Child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

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-Michel 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.


Radiant Child: Some of Basquiat's paintings

Some of Jean-Michel 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.


Radiant Child book page


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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One Response

  1. Lisa Lewis, MD
    | Reply

    Thank you for this book review. I am looking for books for my 8 year old son, this is a good fit.

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