Saturday, June 18, 2011

Uncle Andy's by James Warhola

In this lively picture book, Jamie Warhola remembers one of many trips taken by his family of eight from their farm to visit their grandmother and uncle in New York City. Warhola's youngest uncle moved from Pittsburgh to New York City in 1949, dropped the a from his name, and became known as Andy Warhol. In 1962, the year of this particular trip, Warhol had his first solo exhibition, in which he introduced his soup can paintings.

Young Jamie sleeps in a makeshift bed surrounded by wooden boxes painted to look like Campbell's cardboard shipping cartons. "Uncle Andy had twenty-five cats, all named Sam. They were always hiding in a house that was just like a giant amusement park." The children's excitement is infectious and the story radiates creative energy.

The book's dust jacket shows Warhol's reaction when the family shows up announced on his doorstep. An interior page shows the same scene from the opposite perspective, behind Warhol's shoulder looking out his relatives. I love all the little details in the bright watercolour artwork; it's possible to spend a lot of time examining each spread. One page, for example, shows Jamie's grandmother at work in a corner, adding her penmanship to a piece of art. I learned at the Art Gallery of Alberta's current Warhol exhibit that Andy admired his mother's decorative Old World handwriting.

At the end of their visit, Jamie goes home with a box of art supplies given to him by his uncle. (And this book is proof that Jamie grows up to be an artist too!) It's a wonderful, kid-friendly introduction to the zany art of Andy Warhol.

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