The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock (Author) Mary Grandpre (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A Caldecott Honor Book

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.


Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
A rich, accomplished piece about a pioneer in the art world.

Horn Book Magazine

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.

Booklist

Starred Review
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: pistachiocobalt, and saffron introduce readers to colors while hissingblaring, and whispering reveal the sounds of the colors...This is a beautiful blend of colors, music, and life.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

"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. GrandPre'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.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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 GrandPre'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

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"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."

-New York Times


"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 Huffington Post


"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."

-Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Barb Rosenstock
BARB ROSENSTOCK is the author of the Caldecott Honor Book The Noisy Paint Box; Vincent Can't Sleep; Through the Window; and Mornings with Monet, all also illustrated by Mary GrandPré, as well as many other books. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, sons, and two big poodles. Visit her at BarbRosenstock.com.

ERIKA MEZA is the illustrator of Salsa Lullaby by Jen Arena. She was born in Morelia, in the Mexican state where monarch butterflies go for the winter. She grew up in awe of the phenomenon, and carried the image of the butterfly as a piece of home when she moved to Paris to follow her dream of becoming an author and illustrator. Her themes are born out of the exploration of her migrant essence, her bittersweet relationship with change, and her attachment to innocence and curiosity. She now lives in London. Learn more about Erika at ErikaMeza.com or on Twitter at @ErikaDraws.
Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9780307978486
Lexile Measure
630L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
February 20, 2014
Series
-
Caldecott
Honor 2015 - 2015
ALA
Notable Books for Children 2015 - 2015

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