Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Heart and Soul - Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson was one of the first featured speakers to present at SIBA11.  We filed into the ballroom, and were given a copy of each book from each author who would be presenting at that meal.  Before the lights were dimmed, I'd already paged through this one, and I was awestruck.  The illustrations rendered me speechless.  But that was nothing compared to how I felt once Kadir took the stage.  He was incredibly handsome, and passionate about his work.  This was one talented man.

Kadir told us a story about when he visited the Capitol, and viewed all the beautiful artwork in the rotunda.  He saw "Declaration of Independence", "Landing of Columbus", "Baptism of Pocahontas", and others that document the history of the US.  But it was glaringly obvious that one large piece of our history was missing - that of the African American.  Which inspired Kadir to write and illustrate this book, something his whole life's work had been leading him towards.

"Heart and Soul" tells the story of the birth of the United States from the viewpoint of the African American...from slavery, to abolition, the Civil War, the migration westward, suffrage, and civil rights.  He tips his hat to Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, the Freedmen, the Buffalo Soldiers, Booker T. Washington, Joe Louis Barrow and Dr. King, as well as members of his own family.  It is a thorough lesson in history, be you black or white, all narrated in the voice of an elderly family member telling the story of "how it was back then".        



But the most breath-taking part of the book are the paintings that Kadir has produced.  Yes, they are paintings, each and every one of them, that have been transcribed to the page.  Even by showing you examples, you cannot appreciate the true beauty unless you see them in person.  Each and every one is worthy of framing.




Kadir explained that he either photographs himself or someone else in the correct position so the painting is as realistic as possible.  In the photo of the young boy above, he had a neighbor boy put on an adult-sized shirt.  In the painting of the slave ship, he used actual profile shots for each figure.  The hands below are of an elderly woman that lives on his block.  In one instance, he took an actual photo of his grandmother (whom he loves, which is endearing) and regressed her features to that of a young girl for the book.



I can't think of a single human being that wouldn't benefit from such a thoughtful and gorgeous book.  It would work in a classroom, it would work for teenagers or adults, and it would look great on a coffee table (the size is substantial enough to showcase his artwork).  This one needs to be on everyone's Christmas list!

Kathy (BermudaOnion) reviewed this book as well, please take a look.  She also featured a YouTube video that is worth watching.  Here it is:


 




5 out of 5 stars



16 comments:

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Wow! Adding this one to the ever overflowing wishlist :)

bermudaonion said...

Both the book and the author/artist are magical. This book is a real treasure.

Julie P. said...

Kathy just shared this one with me and the kids. I need to read it very soon since you are the third person to rave over it.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Wow this looks beautiful! I love the pictures. Just stunning.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just read this too. But for my review I included a picture of Kadir Nelson because, ahem, he's, you know, I mean, not to be shallow, but, wow....

Nymeth said...

This sounds absolutely amazing! Both the idea and the illustrations. I imagine that a history book from the perspective of African Americans is VERY different from what we have been taught to think of as "ordinary" history. And yet it's just as real.

Zibilee said...

Your enthusiasm for this book and author was utterly contagious during that trip, and I am looking forward to exploring this book, which is not only a feast for the eyes and soul, but houses a very important story as well. I am so glad that we were able to hear Nelson speak, and those slides featuring the progression of his work were amazing in themselves. Thanks for showcasing so many of the great illustrations in this review!

Ti said...

I saw Jill's comment and Googled the author to see what he looked like. What a good looking guy. You will have to hold Jill back.

The artwork in this book is amazing.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

Your review has me wanting this book even though my kids are 18 and up! I am always drawn to great artwork in books and these paintings are amazing! Now I am off to take a peek at the hunky author. Those gals have me curious!

Anita said...

I've seen this book at B&N, but not taken the time to look through it as I've sold it. I'll be taking another look very soon.
Thanks Sandy for the heads up and the beautiful review.

Beachreader said...

Thank you for including the youtube piece. It was very insightful.

Alyce said...

That looks absolutely beautiful - and what an educational book too!

Kathleen said...

What a gorgeous book and I loved the You Tube video where he described how he literally became part of the story. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I'm not sure I would have heard about it otherwise.

Amy said...

What a powerful and beautiful book. I honestly didn't realize at first the pictures were paintings, I thought they were photos.
I imagine Nelson was a fantastic speaker, I would have loved to see & hear him.

Thank you for reviewing and posting about this book.

Alice Teh said...

I like the story, the illustrations and definitely your review of it. I knew it. Each time I come to your blog (sorry for the long hiatus - time is really scarce these days), I end up with a pile of books on my wish list. I finally got to A MONSTER CALLS. Finally.

The Bumbles said...

I am impressed that such a young author produced a work with such historical impact. Your description of his artistic process reminded me of Norman Rockwell - he used local neighbors and rascals to pose in photographs for the works that he painted to live so famously in our memories.