Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 01/01/2018 Gr 1–4—The pursuit of dreams and the resilience of the human spirit shine in this illustrated biography of one of the world's greatest sports artists. Growing up in the segregated south, Ernie Barnes loved to draw and rarely left home without his sketchbook. Shy, quiet, and often picked on, Barnes found his voice by painting what he observed in his surroundings: families walking, an old man snoring, the junk man peddling. When he grew to be six foot three, he was recruited for the high school football team and eventually earned a sports scholarship to an all-black university. Still, Barnes was discouraged: he wanted to be an artist instead of an athlete. His art teacher inspired him to paint what he saw, and suddenly his calling was realized: he will paint football, seeing the beauty in what before was ordinary. Barnes would go on to make the NFL, play for the Colts, and paint his first football painting, The Bench, a work that would define his career for years to come. After leaving football for good, his professional dream was fully realized when he was invited to become the official artist for the American Football League: "When I became an athlete, I didn't stop being an artist." Collier's illustrations are storytellers on their own, blending emulations of Barnes's work with dynamic, mixed-media imagery that enhances the book's historical relevance. VERDICT An absolutely indispensable illustrated biography that will remind readers of all ages that it's never too late to pursue their dreams.—Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library - Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 01/01/2018 *Starred Review* Growing up in North Carolina during the 1940s and ’50s, Ernie Barnes was a quiet black kid who loved to draw and paint. Though he had little interest in sports, he excelled at high-school football and earned a scholarship to college, where an art teacher inspired him to paint what he saw around him. He played in the NFL for five years before retiring to devote himself to art. Barnes painted what he knew, from neighborhood memories to football players in action. As a college student, he once asked to see paintings by African American artists at the local art museum and was told, “Your people don’t express themselves in that way.” He knew otherwise. Years later, the same museum exhibited his paintings. The book’s lengthy, helpful back matter includes several of Barnes’ paintings as well as notes by the author and illustrator. Coauthor of Blood Brother (2016) and Bound by Ice (2017), Wallace tells the story using specific details and a broad perspective that heighten its meaning. Collier’s expressive, unconventional illustrations, created with watercolors and collage, use rich colors and overlapping images to portray Barnes growing from a shy child to a self-assured artist. A visually striking, enlightening picture-book biography. - Copyright 2018 Booklist.