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About the Author
Simone Shin is a children's book illustrator whose work appeared in Lee & Low's poetry collection I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage. Shin is the recipient of a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Real Simple, Wired, and other publications. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area. You can see more of her work at simoneshin.com.
"Young Niko loves drawing pictures and finds inspiration everywhere--like a mother bird building her nest, or an ice-cream truck's 'ring-a-linging.' Being inspired feels 'like a window opening in his brain, ' which sends his colored pencils in a flurry of swirls on the page. However, from home to school, no one seems to understand his pictures, even after he explains them--like how his picture of 'the warm of the sun on my face, ' a reddish-orange scribblelike abstraction, depicts just the warmth, not the sun or his face. He feels somewhat disheartened, but when he meets new neighbor Iris, who shares a feeling evoked by one of Niko's pictures, they bond over his strange but, to them, recognizable art. Colorful, simply composed mixed-media illustrations portray the multicultural characters in familiar scenes and settings, all the while incorporating Niko's deeply expressive, abstract drawings, which reflect how he engages with the world around him. While some elements may be esoteric for younger children, they'll likely find much to relate to in this insightful and supportive celebration of creativity and imagination."--Booklist--Journal
"A dedicated young artist finds a friend who understands his vision in this picture book ode to the creative spirit. Niko carries a pad of paper and a box of colored pencils everywhere he goes, and his urban community provides plenty of inspiration for his artwork. Unfortunately, his abstract attempts to capture the 'ring-a-ling' of the ice-cream truck's bell, the hard work of a bird building her nest, and the warmth of the sun on his face only confuse his classmates, parents, and teacher, who seem stuck on the concrete objects missing from his drawings. Then a new girl named Iris moves in next door, and when she recognizes her own feelings of sadness in one of his drawings, Niko knows he's found a kindred spirit. Shin's digital and mixed-media illustrations perfectly capture Niko's passion and creativity, visually connecting his drawing pad to the world around him through joyous, scribbled colored pencil lines. Niko's drawings are appropriately naive, employing geometric shapes and bright colors that are echoed in Shin's visuals. Raczka's child-centered text expertly uses accessible language to describe the process of creative expression, likening it to a butterfly fluttering and a window opening in the mind. Pink-skinned Niko appears to come from a biracial family, and his classmates are depicted with a realistically diverse array of skin tones. VERDICT: Niko's journey will resonate with budding artists and inspire young audiences of all abilities to create something meaningful."--starred, School Library Journal--Journal
"A boy finds ample artistic inspiration, but people find his artwork baffling. Niko's art has atypical subject matter. He is excited by 'a mother bird building a nest . . . . Or the ice cream truck ring-a-linging down the street, ' but he doesn't draw the physical things he sees. He draws the robin's hard work and the ice cream truck's sound. 'Where's the robin?' asks his teacher, and then, puzzled, 'So this is the nest?' Niko tries to explain: 'It's not the nest. It's her hard work.' Similarly, the kids find neither ice cream truck nor bell in his picture, because 'It's not the bell. It's the ring-a-ling.' Even his parents don't get it. His drawing of 'the warm of the sun on my face' elicits the question, 'Where's your face?' 'It's not my face. It's the warm, ' Niko says, dejected. While Shin's child-style portrayals of Niko's abstract drawings wouldn't be definable by readers without Niko's explanation, that's hardly the point; the point is finding one person who appreciates his abstract work--a new neighbor--and Niko's freedom to draw nonrepresentationally. The mixed-media illustrations, which include digital rendering and acrylic paint, are gentle and two-dimensional; their colors lean toward tertiaries and blue-grays. Niko has ruddy pink skin and black hair; his dad is brown-skinned, and his mom is probably Asian. Conceptual and thoughtful, like Niko's own pieces."--Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"Everywhere Niko, a budding artist, looks, he sees something that calls out to be drawn. 'It might be a mother bird building her nest. Or the low autumn sun peeking out from behind a cloud. Or the ice cream truck ring-a-linging down the street.' Inspired, he draws and draws. But when he shows his pictures--fantastic, abstract scribbles of line and color and shape--to other people, they just don't get it. 'What is it?' they ask. 'It doesn't look like the ice cream truck.' Niko explains: 'It's not the ice cream truck.... It's the ring-a-ling.' They ask, 'Where's the bell?' Patiently, Niko repeats: 'It's not the bell. It's the ring-a-ling.' Discouraged, Niko seems ready to retreat into himself when he meets the new girl next door, who turns out to be a kindred spirit, one who experiences his art, rather than trying to pigeonhole it.
The creative process is clearly near and dear to the hearts of Bob Raczka (Fall Mixed Up; Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems) and Simone Shin (If I Could Drive, Mama). In Niko Draws a Feeling, Raczka provides possibly the best description of artistic inspiration ever '[I]t felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils, where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of color.' Shin's mixed-media, digital and acrylic artwork wonderfully captures the passion and poignance of a misunderstood artist.
Discover: In this sensitive picture book, no one understands the abstract work of a young artist until he meets a new friend."--Shelf Awareness--Website
"Niko is an abstract expressionist, although he doesn't know it, nor does anyone around him. Showing his parents a drawing composed of yellow striations and red swirls and knots, he explains, 'It's the warm of the sun on my face.' When Dad says he can't see the sun or the face, Niko responds, 'It's not my face. It's the warm.' So it goes at school, too: everyone wants to know why Niko's artwork doesn't show what they see: the world in concretely visual terms. Niko's sadness and sense of being misunderstood lifts when he meets his new neighbor, Iris: her thoughtful, elated expressions as she takes in his creations make for some of Shin's (If I Could Drive, Mama) loveliest scenes in this touching story. 'Niko waited for her questions, ' writes Raczka (Wet Cement), but Iris doesn't need Niko to explain anything. Her own feelings of dislocation and, more importantly, her self-awareness about them, make her both a soul mate and the ideal audience. What more could an artist ask for?"--Publishers Weekly--Journal