Reviews for It Jes' Happened : When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

Booklist Reviews 2012 May #2
*Starred Review* This picture-book introduction to the artist Bill Traylor is astonishing in both its biographical facts and how they are depicted in Christie's beautiful illustrations. Born into slavery in 1854, Traylor worked in the fields, witnessed the destruction of the Civil War, and lived jobless on the streets of Montgomery. Throughout, he saved up the memories of these times "deep inside himself" until 1939, when, at age 85, he started drawing, continuing to produce work until his death, in 1949. Now, he is recognized as a master of "outsider art." Best known as an illustrator, Tate writes with an appealing rhythm and repetition, and with simple eloquence, he describes Traylor's work: the "rectangles became bodies; circles became heads and eyes; lines became outstretched arms, hands, and legs." In images of the artist creating figures on the sidewalk or on scrap paper and discarded cardboard boxes, Christie's paintings, in acrylic and gouache, re-create the style of Traylor's pictures and show how they danced with rhythm. Young people will relate to the folk-art illustrations, while this will interest many adults, too. An afterword fills in more, including the role of Charles Shannon, the white artist who helped Traylor get recognition. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
This picture-book biography describes artist Traylor's life--born into slavery in 1854, he worked as a sharecropper after Emancipation--and how at the age of eighty-five he first began to draw on scraps of cardboard. Christie's own flat primitive style is a perfect match for Traylor's story, but the real artistry here is in Tate's finely crafted account of Traylor's first eighty years.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 March #1
Tate and Christie capture the spirit behind the work of Bill Traylor, "one of the most important self-taught American folk artists of the twentieth century." Traylor went from slavery to sharecropping to raising his family in rural Alabama. In his early 80s, having outlived his family, he moved to Montgomery, sleeping on sidewalks and in doorways and alleys. In his loneliness, he dwelt upon "the saved-up memories of earlier times," and, with the sidewalk as his studio, began drawing. He drew cats, cups, snakes, birds and what he saw around him in Montgomery: the blacksmith's shop, people walking dogs, men in tall hats and women in long dresses. Christie must feel himself a kindred spirit to Bill Traylor, his acrylic and gouache illustrations sharing Traylor's palette of rich color, whimsical humor and sense of play with the human form. In his debut as a picture-book author, Tate crafts prose that is clear and specific, the lively text sometimes surrounded by playful figures cavorting off the pages as Traylor draws them. Though an author's note is provided, an artist's note would have been welcome. An important picture-book biography that lovingly introduces this "outsider" artist to a new generation. (source notes, afterword) (Picture book/biography. 6-11) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #3

In 1939 Montgomery, Ala., 85-year-old former slave Bill Traylor began to draw. In understated prose, Tate imagines the wellspring of memories that might have contributed to Traylor's outpouring of art so late in life: jumping in the Alabama River as a child, witnessing the Civil War and its aftermath, and caring for animals on the farm where he lived after emancipation: "Bill saved up these memories deep inside." After the death of his wife, Traylor moved into Montgomery, where, homeless, he began drawing on sidewalks and assorted objects. Soon after, an artist named Charles Shannon took an interest in his work, arranging for an exhibit of Traylor's work. Christie's acrylic and gouache illustrations nod toward Traylor's own style, with bold color blocks and naïf figures, in this thoughtful reflection on the nature of creative inspiration and a man who "has come to be regarded as one of the most important self-taught American folk artists." Ages 6-11. (Apr.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 June

Gr 3-5--This picture-book biography relates events in the life of an artist who started drawing at the age of 85. As a young boy, Traylor picked cotton. His enslaved family survived the aftermath of the Civil War and he worked a farm, all the while recording memories of his family around him, the animals and their antics, and the gatherings within his community. He bravely left his farm at the age of 81 and tried to find work in Montgomery. At the nadir of his life there--unemployed, tired, and lonely--he began to experiment with drawing as he sat quietly on the street. At first he worked only in pencil, but his artist friend Charles Shannon introduced him to paint and he began to develop signature folk images drawn from his past. Using "deep blues, bright reds, sunny yellows, and earth browns…paint straight from the jar and rarely mixed," Traylor captured animals and people from his past in an imaginative and humorous manner. With a warm palette of browns, reds, yellows, and darker tones, Christie echoes the sharp contrasts and simple line of the subject's work; readers are only given a glimpse of Traylor's images. However, the story of this man's life is an introduction to a noted American folk artist of the 20th century, and a refreshing reminder that artistic talent is not limited by age or formal training.--Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

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