A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa

by Andrea D'Aquino (Author)

A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was an influential and award-winning sculptor, a beloved figure in the Bay Area art world, and a devoted activist who advocated tirelessly for arts education. This lushly illustrated book by collage artist Andrea D'Aquino brings Asawa's creative journey to life, detailing the influence of her childhood in a farming family, and her education at Black Mountain College where she pursued an experimental course of education with leading avant-garde artists and thinkers such as Anni and Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. Delightful and substantial, this engaging title for young art lovers includes a page of teaching tools for parents and educators.

Publishers Weekly

This introduction to the life of the Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) follows her early life growing up on a farm, her time at the legendary Black Mountain College, and the trip to Mexico where she learned to weave with wire. Colorful textural collage illustrations convey the way her creative practice was informed by the world around her ("She loved to draw forms in the dirt with her bare feet"). They are less successful in conveying the magic of her mesmerizing sculptural creations, though a small photo in the supplemental materials gives readers a glimpse of Asawa's work. These materials also offer context on Japanese-American internment--something Asawa experienced but which was left out of the narrative at the request of her estate. Instructions for a paper dragonfly close the book, encouraging readers to emulate this teacher, who "knew that the best way to learn is to use your hands." Ages 5-8. (Sept.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 3--In this picture book, author and illustrator D'Aquino tells the story of how Ruth Asawa became an artist. Raised in California, Asawa, along with her family, worked on a farm. Asawa was interested in nature and very good with her hands. She explored the shapes she observed in nature and began to re-create them out of wire and paper. On the weekends, Asawa attended Japanese school, where she learned calligraphy. She went to Black Mountain College and later traveled to Mexico, where she learned to weave wire into baskets from a local craftsman. Asawa began weaving and never stopped, creating amazing structures that can be found in museums today. D'Aquino's illustrations utilize charcoal, colored pencil, and collage with beautiful muted colors and whimsical designs. D'Aquino focuses on Asawa as an artist, but an author's note discusses Asawa's time in Japanese internment camps in the 1940s. The narrative focuses on Asawa's voyage as an artist at the family's bequest. Resources with more information are appended. D'Aquino also includes illustrated instructions on how to create a paper dragonfly, a great activity for storytime. VERDICT Recommended for primary school libraries and children's collections in public libraries. Also recommended for libraries with art collections.--Lia Carruthers, Gill St. Bernard's School, Gladstone, NJ

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Andrea D'Aquino
Andrea D'Aquino is an artist and author. Her previous books include an illustrated edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Once Upon a Piece of Paper. Her work appears in magazines and newspapers around the world. She lives in New York City.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2019
Age Range
5 - 9 years

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