Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Steptoe, Javaka (Author/Illustrator)
Little, Brown 2016. 40 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9780316213882 (hardcover)
9780316394321 (e-book)
Original language: English
Dewey: 740
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, layout, multimodal, setting, structures and features

Awards

Caldecott Medal – 2017
Coretta Scott King Book Award – 2017

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:

This eye-catching book pays homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, an influential artist born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Haitian father and a mother of Puerto Rican descent. As a boy, Jean-Michel dreamed of being famous, a goal that he eventually attained thanks to his unrelenting drawing practice.

Like Basquiat, the author/illustrator draws from his environment. Painting on discarded pieces of wood from Brooklyn Museum exhibit materials, the Dumpsters of Brooklyn brownstones, and the streets of Greenwich Village and the Lower East side, Jean-Michel proves that imagination and resourcefulness, not expensive supplies, make great art. Vibrant, edgy, graffiti-laden collages reflective of street culture honour Basquiat’s unique style, described as such: “His drawings are not neat or clean, nor does he color inside the lines. They are sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still BEAUTIFUL.”

The text mirrors the visuals, painting pictures with everyday language interspersed with rhymes: “A grown man now,/with the art world in his hands,/Jean-Michel still visits his mother when he can,” is paired with a photo-collage featuring a man with an outstretched hand.

Biographical endnotes highlight motifs in Basquiat’s work and elaborate on the artist’s hardships, such as the loss of his mother to mental health problems, and the drug addiction that ultimately led to his untimely death. Overall, however, the tone is positive, offering hope to budding creatives of all backgrounds, emphasizing how Basquiat’s success ushered in an era of inclusion and diversity.

  •  

    Make predictions about the story based on the cover.

  •  

    On a picture walk, discuss the artist’s style and the emotions that are conveyed.

  •  

    Jean-Michel’s favourite work of art is Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Discuss why you think this is his favourite, then read the section called “More about Jean-Michel Basquiat” for the explanation.

  •  

    Discuss the importance of the artist’s mother, Mathilde. How did she help him become a famous artist? In your reading log, write about a significant person who, like Matilde, helps you develop your talents in different ways.

  •  

    Select a double-page spread and model the way the illustrations support (or contradict) the text. Consider the details and other elements included in the artwork.

  •  

    In small groups, discuss a double-page spread or section of the text. Consider how the artist’s illustrations are used to build the story.

  •  Following reading and discussion, write a response to the text.
  •  

    Make predictions about the story based on the cover.

  •  

    On a picture walk, discuss the style of art, the emotions that are conveyed and the various art pieces. What story do the illustrations tell you?

  •  

    As the story is read aloud, compare and contrast the text with the story told through the illustrations. 

  •  

    Discuss the importance of the artist’s mother, Mathilde. How did she help him become a famous artist? In your reading log, write about a significant person who, like Matilde, helps you develop your talents in different ways.

  •  

    Brainstorm the activities, events or environmental factors that can inspire a child to become an artist. Discuss your ideas with a partner. Together, decide upon the single most influential factor.

  •  

    As you read about Basquiat and his life, write down any questions you have about him. After reading, use resources to find the answers to any remaining unanswered questions.

  •  

    Find examples of Basquiat’s art. Is it what you expected? Do you believe his style of art reflects what he went through in his life? Explain your ideas in a short essay, referring to both the book and Basquiat’s artwork.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Media Literacy
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Visual Arts