Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

In Maybe Something Beautiful, Drab Gray buildings in the city are transformed by a paint brush, as if a magic wand swooped down and flicked color on every surface. The large format and stylized illustrations across double page spreads, some vertical, make this book, illustrated by Rafael Lopez,  Pura Belpre Award winner, a good choice for group storytimes.

A muralist, Lopez inspired the authors, Campoy and Theresa, to create this quality picture book for young audiences, about people coming together in their community through art. The title, Maybe Something Beautiful, expresses artistic vision—what an artist sees and brings to life. Lopez’s images are reminiscent of Ezra Keats’ classic, breaking-the-mold picture book, The Snowy Day in which a child’s world is transformed by snow. Both works contain colorful collages juxtaposing curved shapes against man-made shapes—city buildings, a non-traditional character, a child moving through his unique environment.

From cave dwellers to city dwellers, art on walls has shaped man’s habitat. What makes this book powerful is the true story behind it. Authors of Maybe Something Beautiful have included information and photos about The Urban Art Trail, a community art project that began in 1997 with the husband and wife team Rafael Lopez and Candace Lopez. Their idea of painting murals on walls and benches and poetry on sidewalks transformed the East Village of San Diego initially, but spread throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. The Neon District in Norfolk and the ViBe Creative District in Virginia Beach have caught on to this movement.

For another title about neighbors coming together to celebrate community, I suggest Something’s Happening on Calabash Street, A Story with Thirteen Recipes. But, it's not art that unites the families in this colorful picture book, its food! Families cook their favorite dish, such as golubsti (stuffed cabbage) and share it at a potluck dinner at the Calabash Street Fair. 

If you like Maybe Something Beautiful, but want a picture book for slightly older audiences (grades 2-5), I recommend Luis Paints the World by Terry Farish. Also about mural painting, it's set in Lawrence, Massachusetts in a Dominican-American neighborhood. You will find all of these books at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Review by Sandi H.

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