Before I Grew Up

(Author) (Illustrator)
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Product Details
$18.95  $17.62
Enchanted Lion Books
Publish Date
9.2 X 11.3 X 0.6 inches | 1.35 pounds

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About the Author
John Miller, a nature writer, is the author of two books published by Enchanted Lion, Winston and George and Red Spider Hero. These children's books were illustrated by Giuliano Cucco, a close friend he met while living in Rome. News of Giuliano's death prompted him to link together a number of his friend's many paintings into a story that carries the reader deep into Cucco's rich world of childhood imagination.

Giuliano Cucco was an Italian artist and illustrator. He and his wife were killed by a motor scooter driver in a pedestrian crossing in Rome in 2006. He is survived by a son and two grandchildren.

A Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) Best Children's Book of 2021Winner of Best Art Award, 2021 Northern Lights Book Awards
"A stunning illustrated elegy of life, loss, our search for light, and loneliness as a crucible of creativity. An uncommonly original and tenderhearted celebration of how an artist becomes an artist... Miller set out to honor his friend [Cucco] by bringing his story to life -- traveling back in time on the wings of memory and imagination, to the lush and lonesome childhood in which the artist's gift was forged, projecting himself into the boy's heart and mind through the grown man's surviving paintings, blurring fact and fancy... In spare, lyrical first-person narrative spoken by the half-real, half-imagined boy becoming an artist, Miller invokes the spirit of Giuliano's childhood. Emanating from it is the universal spirit of childhood... From this static scene depicted in one of Cucco's real paintings, from the known facts of his friend's life, in the voice of the boy about to be lit up by his creative calling, Miller's soaring imagination conjures up a larger poetic truth about what it means to be an artist, about the meaning of love and the measure of enough, about the slender strands of assurance that weave the lifeline of the creative spirit." --Maria Popova, The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings)

"After hearing about Cucco's death in 2006, Miller--who had previously collaborated with Cucco on two children's books--linked a series of Cucco's paintings to tell this first-person story about the artist's childhood. Weaving together these heretofore-unconnected oil paintings, many of them deeply atmospheric and enigmatic, ... this series of impressions--about Cucco's childhood years, parents, moments in nature, dreams, life in the city before an eventual return to the country, and more-- are highly textured and richly colored, many showcasing a vivid, sunny yellow. A thought-provoking conversation starter for art lovers of all ages." --Kirkus Reviews

"Before I Grew Up is a very unusual picture book... It tells the story of the Italian painter Giuliano Cucco's childhood in the first person, but it is written by an old friend of his, John Miller... Looking through the late painter's archive in Rome, Miller found a group of paintings related to Cucco's childhood. He selected and arranged some of those pictures, complementing them with short, interpretive sentences. The alluring result is the imaginary life of the artist as a young boy, told through a sequence of lyrical scenes... Dreams and boats are recurrent themes in the story, as is light... This is not an easy book to summarize, and there are a number of fascinating and unexpected situations that are best left to the reader to experience directly." --Sergio Ruzzier, writing for the New York Times

"This tribute of a picture book is one that celebrates the creativity of childhood and how allowing unfettered time and space allow that creativity to carry into adulthood. Miller uses his words as a minimal framework to offer a glimpse of the artist's life and also to share his work. It is [Cucco's] paintings that truly tell the story, sharing emotions through the art. From darker moments to those filled with inspiration and light. The art is whimsical at times, literal at others... A lovely surreal look at an artist, creativity and childhood." --Tasha Saecker, Waking Brain Cells
"Miller has succeeded in offering a memorial to his friend by telling the story of how creativity is nurtured and developed. The haunting art does the rest of the job, encouraging readers to make up their own stories to go with the arresting images. Thought provoking and surrealistic in some places, evocative and strange in others." --New York Journal of Books