Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

Benson, Kathleen (Author)
Andrews, Benny (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015. 32 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780544104877 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 759.13
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

While portraying the eventful life of a gifted artist, this biography touches on inequality, civil rights and the marginalization of people of colour. Simple language and a neutral tone allow facts to speak for themselves. The story opens with Benny Andrews teaching art to New Orleans children in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: “to draw pictures of what they had seen … to express their feelings about what they had been through.” Throughout the book, it’s clear that Benny’s own artwork serves this purpose—and brilliantly tells his story.

Strong figurative compositions are rendered in vivid colours, creating images rich with allegory. The section, “Plainview, Georgia 1933”, (“Benny started to draw when he was three years old”) shows a sharecropper in overalls and straw hat dominating the page. His red hoe seems to point at the sprouting bulb in his hand; plants spring from the red earth around his feet.

The theme of empowerment under extreme adversity resonates in images and language. Benny’s own journey from sharecropping to high school to military service and art school is peppered with details that will inspire discussion about work, rights, justice and more. (“Benny also made pictures of the ordinary people he saw, like the janitors who worked at his school.”) End material includes a timeline and information about the paintings reproduced in this very fine book.

  •  

    Benny Andrews became painter who was inspired by life around him. In your reader-writer’s notebook do quickwrites about things that are a part of your life. If something stands out significantly, you may have found your own source of inspiration: write more about it.

  •  

    Choose one of the pictures that interests you and do some research to find out about the subject it is based on. Make an annotated poster with the painting.

  •  

    Look at Andrews’ timeline and make one for yourself, in the same style.

  •  

    Choose your favourite work of the artist and use it as an inspiration to write a narrative.

  •  

    What predictions can you make from the cover art and title?

  •  

    Go for a picture walk. Discuss the illustrations and the style of art. As the book is read aloud, discuss the artist’s characteristics and create a character map for him.

  •  

    Choose one of Andrews’ paintings and use it to help you write about him and his art.

  •  

    Examine the illustration on page 4. How does it connect to the heading on the next page? Focus on the feelings the art evokes, then read and discuss page 5.

  •  

    Find several examples that prove Benny was a people’s painter and a storyteller. Use these to make a vision board for Benny, had he been able to create one when he was around your age. Do this on poster paper or on a computer.

  •  Create a vision board for yourself. Allow Benny’s colourful art to inspire you.
  •  

    Select one illustration and write speech bubbles for all the characters in it. In a paragraph or two, write the story of one of these people.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • To use information and communications technologies
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Media Literacy
  • Visual Arts