Thursday, September 4, 2014

Picture Book Review: Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J.L. Powers, paintings by George Mendoza

21892530Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza  by J.L. Powers and paintings by George Mendoza 
Published:  September 1, 2014 by Purple House Press
Format: Hardcover 32 pages
Source: In exchange for an honest review, a review copy was received from the author for free.  

From Goodreads:  "George was one of those kids. You know, the kind that never stays still. Then one day, the doctor said he was going blind. Did that slow George down? Not for a single second. In fact, he was so fast, he went on to break a world record for blind runners. And now he's breaking more barriers--because ironically, George Mendoza, blind painter, paints what he sees. George started going blind at age 15 from a degenerative eye disease. It wasn't the sudden onset of blindness that many people experience. George lost his central vision and started seeing things that weren't there--eyes floating in the air, extraordinary colors, objects multiplied and reflected back. He describes this condition as having "kaleidoscope eyes."

He triumphed over his blindness by setting the world record in the mile for blind runners, and later competing in both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics for the Disabled. Now a full-time artist, Mendoza's paintings are a National Smithsonian Affiliates traveling exhibit."

I haven't read or reviewed picture books in awhile, having stopped reading them after my child and I stopped reading them together, but I've always appreciated their beauty.  I've always been up for that picture book that tugs at me.  I guess you could say, I also have a soft spot for artists and all the hard work and creativity that go into their craft (which for me includes authors, painters, illustrators etc.).  So, when I was contacted by J.L. Powers regarding Colors of the Wind, I jumped at the chance.  Look at that front cover (the painting is titled "In Memory of Ray Charles"), the colors are so pleasing to the eye, with its swirling patterns and I loved the idea that the book was based on the painters true story combined with his own artwork. The full page illustrations in Colors of the Wind are stunning, bright, vibrant colors of orange, reds, yellows and blues and really help to illustrate how George Mendoza views the world around him. There are seventeen full page paintings and a small tribute to five others on the last page.  The story is written with a few sentences on one page that detail George Mendoza's story with an occasional drawing by Hayley Morgan-Sanders that depict the author as a young child, running, and the various places discussed in the book. This is alternated with a full page painting from the author on the other side of the page with titles that include "Flaming Rose, Blazing Tree, and Butterfly Eyes".   

One of the only things I noticed while reading the book was that the two styles of the artists (Mendoza and Morgan-Sanders) didn't seem to blend with each other as much as I would have liked.  Yet, I could see where an attempt at balancing the two was made by incorporating Mendoza's artwork on one side of the page into the clothing in the black and white drawing on the other side of the page. Again, this is my personal observation and I don't think it would deter from children enjoying this book at all. The real driving force of this book after all for me where defiantly Mendoza's paintings.  I loved the bold bright colors and I can see some instant kid appeal. I've even seen on the internet where Mendoza has gone on school visits and used his artwork to have children paint their own version of what they think the colors of the wind would look like.  I really enjoyed the inclusion of more detailed information on George Mendoza that J.L. Powers included at the end of the book to further elaborate on his life too.  

Overall, Colors of the Wind is a wonderful book stocked full of beautiful paintings and information about George Mendoza's life as a blind artist and athlete.  When I think of diversity in literature, a book like Colors of the Wind seems to provide a great example for children.  It illustrates the things that one person can accomplish.  Not only does it present the story of an individual with a visual impairment going on to win two Olympic marathons, it also portrays that Mendoza wasn't deterred by his impairment, instead he persevered and modified his original dream of becoming a basketball star into that of an accomplished athlete and painter. Colors of Wind also makes for a great book for Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th-October 15th. I know that I was inspired to learn more about the author/painter and even found out that his artwork has been made into cotton fabric that people now use to make quilts out of. Thus, creating more pieces of art.  More information about George Mendoza can be found here and samples of some of his artwork are here.  

My review copy of Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza was donated to my local Elementary School to play things forward.  Thank you once again to the author for the opportunity to read/review the book.  

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