Monday, February 25, 2013

Illustrator/Author Profile: Kadir Nelson

In honor of Black History Month, we'd like the highlight a few black illustrators and authors in hopes of introducing new readers to their work. Today we're highlighting the work of Kadir Nelson.

Primarily an illustrator, but now also an author, Neson's art is bold and larger-than-life, lending his work a feeling of strength and often making his subjects appear mythic in proportion. Nelson's work stretches across multiple genres, but here are a few of our favorite historical works by Nelson:

Ellington Was Not a Street

written by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Written in verse, Ellington Was Not a Street, is a great introduction to key players in the Harlem Renaissance. Nelson's oil paintings are visually stunning and do a wonder job of portraying the diverse array of skin tones found in black community with beauty and realism. One of my favorite elements of Nelson's work is his ability to portray emotion which he does particularly well in the spread showcasing the love between Shange, her brother, and their father. This book includes back matter on the Harlem Renaissance artists featured in the story.

Moses: How Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

My favorite book illustrated by Nelson, Moses, tells the story of Harriet Tubman's struggle for her own freedom and subsequent dissatisfaction with being free while others still languished in slavery.

The story follows her back into the dangerous South, intent on bringing freedom to those she left behind. The textual design in this book is superb and Nelson's art is nothing short of breathtaking. He does an excellent job of capturing Tubman's strength and determination.

This is a great book to use an introduction to Tubman's life or as a part of a larger study. While slavery is central to the story, it is not portrayed in its full horror, making this a great choice for younger readers.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This 96-page informational picture book was Nelson's first foray into the world of authoring. The illustrations are everything we've come to expect of Nelson's art and work to seamlessly tell the story of the players in the Negro Baseball League who battled racism, horrible conditions, and unequal pay, all for the love of baseball.

Nelson makes it clear though that these men were more than just ball players: they were heroes of the black community.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Also an informational picture book (at 106 pages), Heart and Soul, is arguably Nelson's most ambitious work telling the story of a woman kidnapped and sold as a slave in the United States, who goes through a lifetime of  horrors and hopes and lives to cast her vote for the first black President of the United States.

Heart and Soul covers a great swath of history, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws in the South to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, and can serve as a great overview of black history in the U.S.

As I said before, this is really just a (very small) sampling of Kadir Nelson's work. For a more complete list of his works see his website and his wiki page. As always, thank you for reading, and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Nelson's books, I encourage you to take a jaunt to your local independent bookstore or library and do so--it will most definitely be worth your time!


No comments:

Post a Comment