Ablaze with Color: A Story of Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise

Published by HarperCollins

Summary:  As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved observing the bright colors around her and making things with her hands.  She and her three younger sisters weren’t allowed to go to the white school or library, so their parents filled their house with books and teachers.  When Alma was 15, her family moved to Washington, D.C. to give their daughters more opportunities, and Alma graduated from high school and college, where she studied art.  She taught for many years before retiring at age 69 and pursuing her own art.  Using the bright colors she had loved as a child, she created paintings inspired by nature and by space travel.  Alma was the first Black woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum in New York.  Years after her death in 1978, Barack and Michelle Obama chose one of Alma Thomas’s paintings to hang in the White House, the first artwork there by a Black woman.  Includes notes from the author and illustrator, photos, a timeline of events in Alma’s life and the United States during her lifetime, and a list of sources.  40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  I had never heard of Alma Thomas, but I loved her story and the illustrations inspired by her art.  While the intended audience may not appreciate the fact that Alma’s art career took off after she turned 70, I found that inspiring.

Cons:  It seemed at odds with the theme of the book that the photo of Alma was in black and white.

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