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News & Reviews

Ablaze in Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Illustrated by Loveis Wise

"Harvey and Wise share the story of the first black woman to have her work exhibited in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. Michele Obama chose her Resurrection painting as the first Black woman’s art displayed in the White House.

Alma grew up in segregated Georgia where schools and institutions remained segregated at the time. Her parents countered that by opening their home to books of all sorts and teachers who gave lectures. Alma preferred to be outside absorbing the colors, sights, and sounds of nature.

Alma’s parents moved to Washington, DC as she turned fifteen. Schools and institutions remained closed to black students. As alma matured, she followed in her parents’ footsteps and brought art to students in her home. She organized field trips and encouraged them to display their work.

When Alma retired from teaching, she turned back to creating her own art projects, infusing them with the colors of nature. She grabbed inspiration from the space program of the late sixties. Galleries soon took notice of her brilliant abstract pieces, leading to her solo exhibit and notoriety. The Mayor of Washington, DC proclaimed “Alma Thomas Day,” on September 9, 1972.

The book features stunning illustrations, along with a timeline of Thomas’s life and historical events. Harvey provides references for young readers to satiate their curiosity and expand their knowledge. Highly recommended resource for students and teachers in elementary, middle school, and beyond."

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

"I’m in the business of reviewing books, which over the years has instilled in me a healthy appreciation for the difficult work it is to write a book.

"I am, however, convinced that Non-Fiction Picture Book Biographies are the biggest challenge of all.

"Authors and illustrators of picture book biographies must necessarily walk a fine line between relaying information and entertaining young readers. Moreover, the subject is normally an adult that the author and illustrator must present to children as someone they should learn from and perhaps even emulate in their own lives.

"It’s a weighty, nuanced task, which is why when I come across a book like Ablaze With Color (written for ages 4 to 8), I’m ready to bow down in awe of what the author and illustrator have accomplished.

"This is one of those rare books about an artist that makes you want to immediately search out their art and see everything they’ve created. Best of all, it’s very kid friendly – both the text and the illustrations.

"It’s also a perfect example of a picture book in which the author’s text and the illustrator’s art pair perfectly to tell a complete story.

"Harvey uses a rich, poetic voice as she narrates Alma’s life story, making it both easy and enjoyable for children to follow along. Likewise, Wise’s bright and vivid illustrations pay beautiful homage to Alma’s own work and are sure to enthrall both children and adults.

"Alma Thomas blazed a colorful trail in her lifetime and this book, Ablaze With Color, is a beautiful and uplifting account of her incredible contributions to art, racial equality, and education.

Highly Recommend! "

"What to Expect: History, art, racism, equality, hope, perseverance

"Alma loves color and nature. Even though she lives in a world that denies her access to rights and education, she is lucky to be part of a family that celebrates creativity, books, learning, and teaching. With a loving family and great teachers to guide her, Alma becomes an amazing artist. When her family moves North to where they can enjoy more freedom, she devotes her energy to teaching and helping children, rather than becoming famous for her art. Alma’s story is an inspiring ode to giving back and helping others.

"In telling the true story of Black artist Alma Thomas, this stunning picture book places emphasis not on fame and success, but on serving and supporting others and on enjoying life and experience. Drawing on Alma’s own art for inspiration,

the book is awash with bright, vibrant illustrations, accompanied by vocabulary that invites a multisensory exploration of color.

"The book’s end matter includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of Alma’s life, and a resources page, making this volume a great educational resource as well as an engaging story.

"Overall, Ablaze with Color is a beautiful and thought-provoking biography for young readers and artists to enjoy. Highly Recommended!"

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

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