Author & Illustrator: Raúl Colón (US, Puerto Rico)
Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books
Despite the growing popularity of children's books celebrating multicultural art and artists of color, it's important to continue diversifying literature about the arts and to introduce young artists to role models with different backgrounds and experiences. That's why I'm so excited about Raúl Colón's new wordless picture book, Draw!
In this book, Colón explores the power of art by depicting an imaginary journey to Africa. Using his drawing skills as a vehicle, the main character -- a semi-autobiographical version of the author/illustrator, who suffered from chronic asthma as a child and was often confined to his bed -- leaves his bedroom and visits various parts of the continent, where he sketches a friendly elephant, an ornery rhinoceros, a sleepy hippo, and a PB&J-loving gorilla. (If you'd like to learn more about the inspiration behind the book, you can read this SLJ interview or listen to Colón describe the experience at TeachingBooks.net.)
What I love most about this work is Colón's trademark style -- the rich colors, the almost pointillistic look, and the nuanced expressions he gives to both humans and animals. The illustrations are simultaneously playful and inspiring, and budding artists will easily identify with the main character's desire to escape his everyday surroundings and paint something unfamiliar and beautiful.
Furthermore, educators can use Draw! as a springboard for several different types of lessons. Literacy teachers can take their students on a picture walk through the pages and encourage children to supply their own narration in the absence of text. Art teachers can use the book to emphasize the importance of creative expression and how creating and viewing art can serve as a portal to other worlds. And science teachers can pair this book with others to introduce the diversity of wildlife in Africa (as long as they're careful to point out that gorillas don't live in the same ecosystems as the other animals depicted in this book).
Enjoy this book, and share it with children of all ages!