Written By: Matthew Burgess
Illustrated by: Josh Cochran
For Ages: 4 years and up
Topics Covered: Artist, Historical Figure, LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS, Death, Own Voices.
I don’t know about you, but I love Keith Haring. He was an artistic visionary and beloved figure in the queer community. When first seeing this book, I was so pleased with the large size and the quality of the squishy covers! It’s larger than life, something I also associate with Keith himself.
The story follows Keith’s life as an art-loving child up until his death at age 31 (due to AIDS complications). Keith had a love for teaching children art, and involving them in his mural completion was something he did all over the globe. He had a deep love for creative process, and found inspiration everywhere. His partner Juan was a DJ, and together they supported each other’s craft and held many odd jobs to pay the bills (mostly in Keith’s case, before his art became popular). The book centers around the fact that Keith was joyful in everything he did. He cared deeply about the artistic process being spontaneous and free, and he used this to create murals that made people stop and respond (whether that was appreciating his art or inspiring them to create their own art!). Keith is constantly described as spontaneous, free, and living his life to the fullest. This gorgeous book embodies the strongly held beliefs that Keith had that art is for the people, and can be created by people of any age. I really love that it includes details of Keith’s life, like his partnership with Juan and AIDS. These details are inextricably linked to Keith as a person, and provides opportunity for wonderful discussion. After the story is more biographical information about Keith, and very emotional author and illustrator notes. This book will be a timeless classic, much like the art of Keith Haring.
This book was kindly sent to us by Enchanted Lion, but all opinions are my own.
Matthew Burgess is an Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College. He is the author of a poetry collection, Slippers for Elsewhere (UpSet Press, 2014), and three children’s books: Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings (Enchanted Lion Books, 2015), The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon (Knopf, 2019), and the newly released Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring (ELB, 2020). He has edited an anthology of visual art and writing titled Dream Closet: Meditations on Childhood Space (Secretary Press, 2016), as well as a recent collection titled Spellbound: The Art of Teaching Poetry (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2019). More books are forthcoming, including The Bear and The Moon (Chronicle, 2020), Make Meatballs Sing: The Life & Art of Corita Kent (ELB, 2021), and Bird Boy (Knopf, 2021). A poet-in-residence in New York City public schools since 2001, Matthew also serves as a contributing editor of Teachers & Writers Magazine.
Josh Cochran grew up in Taiwan and California. He works as an illustrator based in Brooklyn specializing in bright, dense and conceptual drawings. In 2013, his work on Ben Kweller’s “Go Fly A Kite” received a Grammy nomination for Best Limited Edition Packaging. He has a number of side projects, and sometimes exhibits his work in galleries. Josh has a children’s book published by Big Picture Press, “Inside Out: New York”.