Beautiful Shades of Brown, written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Felicia Marshall, is the story of a talented young African American artist, Laura Wheeler Waring. Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura found that people who looked like her were almost non existent in the world of art, both behind the canvass and within them too. Inspired by famous Parisian artists who would paint people they knew from their everyday environment, Laura wanted to do the same, and in doing so rebalance the bias and address under representation in art. At a time when publishing houses are trying to right the wrongs of the past and give every child the opportunity to see themselves represented in picture books, Beautiful Shades of Brown couldn’t be more timely and exquistily written!
I absolutely loved this book. It was joyful, inspiring and brilliantly researched! Churnin, writes as if from the voice of Laura herself, testing out different shades of brown and likening her mixing of tones to that of a rainbow – just gorgeous! This book is simply written and told in words that can be accessed by all ages. She lightly intersperses facts and lyrical moments throughout the simple narrative and weaves together a beautiful uplifting tale.
I love to paint and especially love oil paintings. It was such a delight to find them on show throughout this book. Marshall paints exquisitely, with lifelike detail, a lot of heart and depth. I could have plucked many of the spreads from the book and put them up on my wall at home!
I knew nothing about the main character of the story, Laura Wheeler, prior to reading this book and was captivated throughout. I instantly went online to search for her paintings after reading this book and can now say with great conviction that I am a huge fan of her work – so thank you Nancy Churnin for bringing her to my attention. I hope this book has the same effect on you too!
This is a great book for any child who loves to paint, is interested in history, social equality, inspiring female characters and art. The author note and informative backmatter is a wonderful addition to the paired down story for those older readers seeking more detail and I loved seeing some of the real paintings done by Laura at the end of the book too.
A hugely enjoyable, interesting and inspiring picture book! Highly recommend!!!