Sunday, June 16, 2019



ABOUT THE BOOK {from Goodreads}:

Brush up on your knowledge on popular American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell with this exciting Who Was? title.

Norman Rockwell often painted what he saw around him in nostalgic and humorous ways. After hearing President Franklin Roosevelt's address to Congress in 1943, he was inspired to create paintings that described the principles for universal rights: four paintings that portray iconic images of the American experience. Over the course of his lifetime, he painted 322 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. Of his work, he has said: "Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn't the perfect place I thought it to be, I consciously decided that if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it."

I have thoroughly enjoyed the half dozen or so of these WhoHQ Penguin Workshop biographies published by Penguin Random House LLC that I've read in the past couple of years. This volume is no exception.

When I hear the name, Norman Rockwell, I think Americana. This prolific and talented painter contributed paintings to The Saturday Evening Post from 1916 until 1963. The book includes background information on the history of and the importance of this magazine in American culture.

I was pleased that the author included some information about Norman's childhood so young readers can relate to his struggles. Apparently, Norman was skinny and uncoordinated, so unlike his brother--Jarvis--he was not chosen to play in the neighborhood games. 

However, from a young age Norman exhibited talent as an artist. He liked to draw pictures from magazines. When his father read aloud to the family at night, Norman would draw pictures of the characters in his sketch book. 

Unfortunately, Norman's mother was sickly and his father's attention was given to the care of his wife. Mr. Rockwell did not pay much attention to Norman and Jarvis. Apparently, the loneliness and lack of love Norman felt from his parents affected him his entire life. I worked with lots of children who were in the same situation, and I think this book may inspire them when they learn that a talented artist of great fame experienced the same things in his home life as a child.

As a middle-grader, Norman worked at several jobs to earn money for art lessons. He mowed lawns, taught drawing to an actress, and delivered mail. At age seventeen Norman dropped out of high school so he could enroll full time in the Art Students League school in New York City. He studied there for the next three years. 

He spent every spare moment working on his art. He did not go out on the town or party like the other students in his classes. Norman placed himself on a very strict regime. He did not skip lunch, and he never worked all night. 

Norman later became associated with the Boy Scouts of America as an illustrator for their first handbook. He was hired to become the art editor of Boys' Life Magazine, the Boy Scout magazine. Over the next sixty years Norman painted many covers for the annual Boy Scout calendar too.

In addition, Norman illustrated advertisements for socks, cereal, toothpaste, and cough medicine. He had a dream of painting a cover for The Saturday Evening Post. When he intitially met with the magazine's editor and art editor they bought two covers and one additional sketch idea and three future covers. Norman was on his way!

The book chronicles his U.S. Navy service during World War I. His Four Freedoms covers on The Saturday Evening Post, published in 1943, helped to sell over $132 million worth of government bonds to help the World War II effort. 

After a tragic fire in which his entire studio burned down, Norman Rockwell decided to paint the present rather than paint historical scenes and portraits. This change of focus spurred him on to paint Rosie the Riveter for the May 29, 1943, cover of the Post. 

In an effort to increase the popularity of the magazine during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Post commissioned Rockwell to paint portraits of US politicians Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, and John F. Kennedy. Norman also traveled around the world to sketch portraits of world leaders. This was not the type of work Rockwell wanted to be doing. He wanted to paint covers that told a story. After 323 covers, he retired from the Post at age sixty-nine.

He continued to work through the 1960s and early 1970s by painting what he saw happening in America. Desegregation of neighborhoods and schools, the Civil Rights Act, and the Apollo 11 moon landing were among his most famous works. 

In 1976, Norman Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford. However, Rockwell was too frail to attend the ceremony; so his son, Jarvis, accepted the medal on his behalf. He died at the age of 84 in November, 1978.

The back matter includes a section on where Norman Rockwell's work can be found, timelines of Norman Rockwell's life and the world, and a Bibliography.

Highly-recommended for fans of art history, American heroes, US history, and biographies of famous Americans.

Learn about more great middle-grade reads by visiting Greg Pattridge's 'Always in the Middle' blog to find the links to other blog posts celebrating Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday!  
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  1. My family visited Rockwell's studio, must have been not long after his death. I was always fascinated with his work, but he's not someone with whom younger readers would be at all familiar. I've been liking this series.

  2. Interesting to learn so much about Norman Rockwell's life. I loved biographies as a kid. I'll have to check out this series.

  3. I used to love reading these WhoHQ biographies—I have read at least 40 of them, since they're not super-long. This one sounds fabulous as well! Thanks so much for the review!

  4. I've enjoyed a few titles in this series and Normal Rockwell sounds like one not to miss. Such an iconic figure in art history. Thanks for featuring.

  5. I didn't know much of anything about Norman Rockwell's life. I love his work even more now knowing his beginnings and how he evolved as an artist. Great review!