Title: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art -The Noisy Paint Box
Written by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Mary Grandpré
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
Themes: abstract art, sounds, Kandinsky, historical fiction
Vasya Kandinsky spent his days learning to be a proper Russian boy. He studied bookfuls of math, science and history.
Vasya was an obedient little boy in his educated mid 19th century Russian home. He studied the sciences and music and conformed to his family’s and society’s expectations. Even when his grandmother gifted him with a paint box, whose colors Vandinsky not oly saw but heard, he bowed to his family’s and his art class’s expectations of realism in his art. He was to paint flowers and house, NOT the twirling, trilling symphony of color sounds he heard as he mixed his palette. “He brushed a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings.” He could take these expectations only so long, however, while studying law, he attended a Moscow opera, “And Vasya was never quite as proper again.” His noisy paint box could not be silenced! He quit law school and eventually moved to Munich to study with the greatest. Even here tradition tried to thwart him. Vasya was one of the first of his artistic friends to buck the trends and create something entirely new – abstract art. It was all about how the art made you feel.
Why I like this book:
This book tells the story of an artist, an era and courage with colors, music and vivacity. The text is packed with information but not at all dense as the prose is very poetic, almost dancing across the page like a paintbrush on a fresh canvas. It appears that research from Kandinsky’s writing would seem to indicate he experienced synesthesia, the neurological phenomenon that dulls the separation of the senses. While she doesn’t use the word synesthesia in the text, Rosentock paints the condition through her language choice. The story itself is fascinating and Grandpré does a magnificent job of creating perfect scenes from Tzarist Russia and infusing them with the avant-garde approach of this young painter. One senses/sees the transition as Kandinsky moves from Moscow to his artist’s community in Munich where he feels free to allow his true internal art to make music for the world. This is a fabulous piece of historical fiction in picture book format, informative, colorful and fun. A great addition to so many sorts of lessons.
- Backmatter includes four paintings by Kandinsky, an author’s note, sources, links to websites on synesthesia and abstract art.
- Rosentock’s author page includes a book trailer for The Noisy Paint Box
- Large collections of Kandinsky’s art hang in: The Guggenheim Museum and the MOMA in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, Musee Nationale d’Art Moderne in Paris, The Stadtische Galerie in Munich, and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with teaching resources and activities, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.