Publishers Weekly Review
Nicknamed "Action Jackson" for his kinetic style, abstract artist Jackson Pollack takes the spotlight in this outstanding picture book biography. Collaborators Greenberg and Jordan (Chuck Close: Up Close) frame their account around a significant period in Pollack's life in 1950, when he created Number 1, 1950 (also called Lavender Mist), one of his most famous paintings. Readers follow Pollack into his barn studio, watch over his shoulder as he lays the canvas on the floor and begins to work all the while learning about his early life and influences ("Like the Native American sand painters he saw as a boy out West, he moves around the canvas coaxing the paint into loops and curves"). Weaving in quotes from Pollack himself and such child-friendly details as the artist's pets (including a tame crow named Caw Caw), the authors craft an imaginative account grounded in solid research and enlivened with lyrical prose ("He swoops and leaps like a dancer, paint trailing from a brush that doesn't touch the canvas"). Parker (To Fly, reviewed below) suggests the artist's graceful motion with the barest of penstrokes; in one spread, Pollock's body curves across both pages as he paints. Whether capturing the intensity of the creative process and the artist's unique choreography or the spare vistas of sea and sky near the artist's Long Island home, Parker's impressionistic pen-and-watercolor illustrations pay homage to the painter's sweep of line and color ("energy and motion made visible," to quote Pollack). An extensive afterword offers notes and sources, as well as photos of Pollack at work and quotes from his friends and colleagues. Ages 6-10. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Booklist Review
Gr. 2^-5. "Action Jackson" was Jackson Pollock's nickname, and this slim, picture-book biography describes how this "athlete with a paintbrush" made one of his most famous works: the "drip painting" titled Lavender Mist. Using spare, lyrical words, the authors layer the exciting story with deep observations about what art is and how it is made. Descriptions of the thrilling creative process dance between long periods where Pollock "sits, staring at the blank canvas" and motion: "dripping, pouring, flinging." Throughout, the authors describe how Pollack's technique differed from that of other artists, using plenty of sensory descriptions. Parker's scribbly pen-and-watercolor illustrations get the mood just right; the loose lines have an improvised, energetic quality that echoes Pollock's painting. As in their previous collaborations, such as Frank Gehry (2000), the authors explore what an artist does in remarkably clear language that will encourage children to approach art, learn about it, and trust their own reactions. Pollocks' darker struggles--alcoholism, depression--are mentioned in an excellent, appended profile for older readers, which includes some thumbnail reproductions of Jackson's work. An authors' note addressing fictionalization, source notes, and a bibliography are included. --Gillian Engberg