A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

by James Yang (Author)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi.

If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all.

How can they be so heavy?

Would they float if they had no weight?

Winner of the Theordor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi.

Wandering through an outdoor market, through the forest, and then by the ocean, Isamu sees things through the eyes of a young artist . . .but also in a way that many children will relate. Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones.

Through colorful artwork and exquisite text, Yang translates the essence of Noguchi so that we can all begin to see as an artist sees.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
A marvel of prose, illustration, and design that invites repeated meditation. 

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Miniature, toy-like images by Geisel Medalist Yang (Stop! Bot!) follow a solitary boy who's drawn to nature's elemental forms. He's based on the sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), but readers needn't have that context to take pleasure in this story. In a second-person telling that places readers right in the moment, Isamu is at the market in Japan with his mother, off at the edge of the action: "Maybe there is a quiet space that feels more like you," the text reads. Wandering beyond a group of children who play loudly, Isamu walks, asking questions: "Why does cloth feel soft? Who made the path with stone?... How can light feel so welcoming?" In the forest, he sees leaves, grass, and more stones ("If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all"), then finds his way to the quiet rumble of the ocean. "Isamu! There you are!" his mother cries, reaching for an embrace--when she asks about his day, "You think about how you were/ alone but not lonely." Less a biography than an attentive, balanced study of an artist's sensibility, this story ends with an author's note about Noguchi, who believed that "when an artist stopped being a child, he would stop being an artist." Ages 3-7. (June)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
James Yang
James Yang's prize-winning work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including Graphis, Newsweek, Forbes, Fortune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He is the author/illustrator of Stop! Bot!, Bus! Stop!, Joey and Jet, Joey and Jet in Space, and Puzzlehead. The designer of "Clockman," a sculpture on display at the National Museum of American History, Mr. Yang and his wife live in New York City.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication date
June 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV003000 - Juvenile Fiction | Art & Architecture
Library of Congress categories
Asian/Pacific American Award
Honor Book 2022

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