Gr 3-6-Engel and Freedman, both friends of the deceased artist, have produced a simply and lovingly written biography, said to be based on their conversations with Keats and on his autobiographical essays. They trace his beginnings in Brooklyn, NY, as Jack Ezra Katz, and describe his early years during the Depression and the obstacles he had to overcome to realize his dream of becoming an artist. Appropriately, the text is accompanied by his paintings, sketches, and illustrations from some of his more than 20 children's books. Readers are treated to beautiful full-color reproductions from such titles as The Snowy Day (Viking, 1962), Goggles! (Aladdin, 1987), The Trip (Morrow, 1987), Louie's Search (Four Winds, 1984), and Apt. 3 (Aladdin, 1986). Unfortunately, the book has neither a bibliography nor endnotes. Nonetheless, this attractive, oversized volume is a must read for Keats's many fans and a marvelous way to introduce (or reintroduce) children to his work.-Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
Based on conversations with Keats and on his autobiographical writings, this tells the story of the artist's life. It concentrates on his childhood and youth but includes his winning of the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for "The Snowy Day" and his death in 1983. Born Jack Ezra Katz, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Keats loved to draw and paint as a child. Encouraged by his mother and discouraged by his father, who feared that his son would never earn his living, Keats followed his dream to become an artist. Anecdotes and conversations make his story quite readable. The use of artwork from Keats' books works very well visually, but since the connection between the pictures in his books and incidents in his life aren't always made in the text, it's often hard to know how closely an illustration reflects an actual experience--and using a detail from "Clementina's Cactus", set in the desert of the Southwest, to illustrate Keats' trip to Appalachia seems absurd. Scenes from the picture books are bright, attractive additions, but more intriguing are reproductions of the artist's early paintings. A large-format book with big type, this would be a good resource for classroom units on authors.