A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

by Jen Bryant (Author) Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award

An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book

Winner of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art.

Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people--including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth--started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.

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Starred Review
A well-structured narrative with recurring themes and a highly accessible style...outstanding.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
This outstanding portrait of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946) allows Pippin's work to shine--and his heart too.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-6—Born in 1888, grandson of a slave, Pippin loved to draw from an early age. He painted "...every day scenes in natural colors; then he added a splash of red." His classmates often begged, "Make a picture for us, Horace!" When he was in the eighth grade, he quit school and went to work. From rail yard to farm to hotel to factory, his workmates echoed the request, "Make a picture for us...." And when he enlisted in World War I, his fellow soldiers also entreated him to draw. "The war brought out all the art in me." But a bullet to the shoulder rendered his right arm useless and he was unable to find work due to his injury. Still, his drive to draw remained. One day, "using his good arm to move the hurt one, he scorched lines into the wood" to create a picture. With practice, his weak arm improved enough to allow him to paint, and paint he did. N.C. Wyeth recognized his talent and arranged for him to have a one-man exhibit. Today his work hangs in museums all over the country. Bryant's meticulously researched, eloquent text makes this a winning read-aloud, while Sweet's vibrant, folksy illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, portray the joys and hardships of the man's life, using his trademark palette...with just a splash of red. Quotations from his notebooks, letters, and interviews are effectively woven into the pictures.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

The team behind the Caldecott Honor book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams returns with a rewarding picture-book biography of self-taught African-American artist Horace Pippin. As a child, Pippin drew pictures at every opportunity, but his family's economic struggles eventually necessitated that he use his "big hands" in many other roles, including "stacking grain sacks at a feed store, shoveling coal at a rail yard," and later serving in WWI. Despite a war injury to his right arm, Pippin adapted in order to continue drawing and painting, eventually leading to recognition and fame in the art world. Sweet's naif mixed-media collages blend thick, solid color blocks with motifs mined from Pippin's vibrant compositions, which range from war scenes to that of children at play. Quotations from Pippin about the psychological scars of war and his artistic process are hand-drawn into Sweet's images, underscoring how art was not only a joyful outlet for Pippin, but also a vital means of interpreting the world. Ages 5-8. Author's agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Jan.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2013
Schneider Family Book Awards - Young Children's Book Winner
BISAC categories
JNF038100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States
JNF007010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Art
Library of Congress categories
United States
Pippin, Horace
African American painters
Parents Choice Awards (Spring) (2008-Up)
Gold Medal Winner 2013 - 2013
Schneider Family Book Award
Winner 2014 - 2014
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Honor Book 2014 - 2014
Orbis Pictus Award
Winner 2014 - 2014
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2014 - 2014
Keystone to Reading Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Red Clover Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Show Me Readers Award
Nominee 2015 - 2016
Monarch Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
William Allen White Childens Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016

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