The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art [NOOK Book]

Overview

Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.
 
But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony!...
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Overview

Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.
 
But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music?
 
In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors—and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.
 
Backmatter includes four paintings by Kandinsky, an author’s note, sources, links to websites on synesthesia and abstract art.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Vasya Kandinsky grows up “…learning to be a proper Russian boy.” But when he is given a paint box and begins to mix colors, those colors make sounds for him. In art class, however, he must learn to draw “like everyone else.” Ignoring his paint box, he studies law, but colors still make music for him. He hears colors singing and sees music dancing. He goes to Munich to study traditional painting, but is not happy with it. Neither are his artist friends. Finally Kandinsky begins to paint what he hears, and creates “something new—abstract art,” something it has taken a long time for people to understand. Naturalistic illustrations, done with acrylic paint and paper collage, first trace his growth, then move on from his traditional paintings to those of action and feelings. Ribbons of color depict the singing he hears. Four small reproductions of his works help the reader get a sense of his feelings. There are also factual notes, quotations, and a bibliography. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz; Ages 5 to 8.
Publishers Weekly
★ 11/11/2013
“Is it a house?” “Is it a flower?” “What’s it supposed to be?” When an aunt gives Moscow schoolboy Vasily Kandinsky a paint box, no one knows what to make of the wild shapes he creates. He doesn’t just see the colors. He hears them: “blaring crimson... burbling green, clanging orange, and tinkling violet.” Even after he gives up his career teaching law years later and decides to study art, his teachers steer him toward traditional subjects. He resists, and his works become the art world’s first abstract paintings. Rosenstock (Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library) focuses on passages of Kandinsky’s writing that seem to indicate he experienced synesthesia, the neurological phenomenon that blurs the boundaries between the senses, and her prose strikes a balance between lightheartedness and lyricism. GrandPré’s (The Wee Hours) paintings, meanwhile, conjure up an entire epoch, lingering over the candelabras and tasseled drapes of the Kandinskys’ apartment, breathing life into all the characters, and conveying the energy and vitality of the colors Kandinsky hears. Contains an afterword and reproductions of some of Kandinsky’s works. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
New York Times, January 29, 2014:
"GrandPré employs muted purples and blues to depict Vasya’s dull childhood world. Once he starts painting, the pages come alive with bright swirls of color that fly around his head like strands of melody…Even those who aren’t inspired to visit a museum will take away the lesson of Kandinsky’s life: Listen to what excites you and follow its call.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 11, 2013:
"Rosenstock's prose strikes a balance between lightheartedness and lyricism. GrandPré’s paintings conjure up an entire epoch...breathing life into all the characters."

Starred Review, Booklist, January 1, 2014:
"Richly colored, large acrylic paint and paper collage pictures illustrate the life of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the first painters of abstract art...The rich word choice is a delight: pistachio, cobalt, and saffron introduce readers to colors while hissing, blaring, and whispering reveal the sounds of the colors...This is a beautiful blend of colors, music, and life."

Starred Review, Kirkus, December 1, 2013:
“A rich, accomplished piece about a pioneer in the art world.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, February 2014:
"The book offers diverse potential for different types of study, whether one is reading for information or for pleasure. Outstanding.”

The Huffington Post, March 20, 2014:
"The fantastic illustrations in this book will speak to the creative child and the story of breaking free from convention and finding your own path will speak to the child who dreams of things not yet seen."

The Horn Book, January/February 2014:
"Concentrating primarily on the artist as a child and young adult, Rosenstock takes known events and embellishes them with dialogue and specific sounds for the colors. GrandPré does a fine job showing color and sound as abstractions while presenting the artist and his surroundings in a more realistic manner."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2014:
"The story of a young kid who wants to shake things up will appeal to many junior artists, and the details of Vasya’s sonic joy in color may inspire further artistic exploration...An author’s note gives more details about Kandinsky’s life, and a quartet of Kandinsky paintings are reproduced alongside it."

School Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
Gr 1–4—A stirring tribute to a prominent pioneer of abstract art, Paintbox follows the life of Russian-born artist Vasya Kandinsky from his childhood to adulthood, conveying the astounding imagery conjured in the painter's (probably genetic) condition, synesthesia, which caused sensory fields to collide in explosions that enabled him, for example, to hear colors. In this delightful homage, Rosenstock's crisp visual language unites with GrandPré's deeply expressive and whimsical paintings to re-create the intriguing world of art as seen through Kandinsky's distinct lens. The book offers diverse potential for different types of study, whether one is reading for information or for pleasure. Outstanding.—Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-17
This impressive biography of Vasily Kandinsky highlights the unusual connection between his art and the music that inspired it. As a young boy in Russia, Vasily--nicknamed Vasya--glumly studies "bookfuls of math, science, and history." His heavy eyelids droop; he sits "stiff and straight" while adults drone on. Then his aunt gives him a paint box, and everything changes. As Vasya mixes one hue with another, he hears the colors making sounds. "Whisper" is set in a faux handwriting type; "HISS" is also set in a different type from the primary text. Vasya listens as "swirling colors trill…like an orchestra tuning up." Rosenstock explains the mixing of Vasya's senses--synesthesia, in contemporary terms--through the shapes he paints: "Crunching crimson squares," "[w]hispering charcoal lines" and "a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings." Using acrylic paint and paper collage, Grandpré emphasizes the blending of two arts by showing Vasya's paintbrush-holding arms aloft as if he were conducting and by letting Vasya's colors waft upward from his palette, making curlicues in the air, with music staffs and notes interwoven. As Vasya grows up, he faces resistance to his nonrepresentational work, including the repeated interrogation, "What's it supposed to be?"--but his magnificent, abstract, sound-inspired paintings won't be repressed. A rich, accomplished piece about a pioneer in the art world. (author's note, painting reproductions, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307978509
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: NOOK Kids
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 378,984
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • File size: 48 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

BARB ROSENSTOCK is the author of The Camping Trip that Changed America, illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein, and Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith, illustrated by Scott Dawson. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, sons, and two big poodles.

MARY GRANDPRÉ is best known as the illustrator of the Harry Potter books. She also illustrated The Blue Shoe by Roderick Townley and the picture books The Carnival of the Animals written by Jack Prelutsky and Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat by Jennifer Armstrong.
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