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A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

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With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi. If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all. How can they be so heavy? Would they float if they had no weight? Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japan With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi. If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all. How can they be so heavy? Would they float if they had no weight? Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi. Wandering through an outdoor market, through the forest, and then by the ocean, Isamu sees things through the eyes of a young artist . . .but also in a way that many children will relate. Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones. Through colorful artwork and exquisite text, Yang translates the essence of Noguchi so that we can all begin to see as an artist sees.


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With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi. If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all. How can they be so heavy? Would they float if they had no weight? Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japan With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi. If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all. How can they be so heavy? Would they float if they had no weight? Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi. Wandering through an outdoor market, through the forest, and then by the ocean, Isamu sees things through the eyes of a young artist . . .but also in a way that many children will relate. Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones. Through colorful artwork and exquisite text, Yang translates the essence of Noguchi so that we can all begin to see as an artist sees.

30 review for A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I tagged this book as a biography but it’s not quite a biography. It’s not about Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi’s life, but rather a story about what he was like as a child. This story honors all the quiet introverted children in our lives and classrooms. My favorite line in the book is, “You think about how you were alone but not lonely.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mr. George The Librarian

    Art is different...as is the artist. Our creative souls are as varied as our interests and personalities. I enjoy this tale of individual needs and creativity.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    Pensive and unique story that introverts will relate to in particular. A child takes joy in observing nature on his own, sights that will someday influence the art he creates.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bange

    The life and sensibilities of one gifted Asian-American artist, as told by another gifted Asian-American artist. A day in the life of young Isamu Noguchi while growing up in Japan gives great insight into his curiosity of the natural world and understanding of how being alone can be inspiring - not lonely. Yang's spare text sings with the joy and wonder of life that Noguchi must have experienced. What is also incredible about this book is that Yang captures the subtlety, boldness, and traditional/ The life and sensibilities of one gifted Asian-American artist, as told by another gifted Asian-American artist. A day in the life of young Isamu Noguchi while growing up in Japan gives great insight into his curiosity of the natural world and understanding of how being alone can be inspiring - not lonely. Yang's spare text sings with the joy and wonder of life that Noguchi must have experienced. What is also incredible about this book is that Yang captures the subtlety, boldness, and traditional/modern feeling of Noguchi's art-to-come in the artwork - yet keeps true to Yang's art style. A perfect match! While this provides great insights into Noguchi, older readers looking for a picture book biography about him should look at Christy Hale's book The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan (Lee & Low, 2009). This would also be useful for parents and counselors working with shy or solitary children. Highly Recommended for PreSchool-grade 3.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Impressive digital illustrations complement text detailing the imagined childhood experiences and perspective of the boy who would grow up to become celebrated artist Isamu Noguchi. Somehow the text and images seem to channel Isamu as he is drawn to stones and to bamboo, feeling a connection to nature and what others might see as inert objects. It's clear that even as a young boy, he had a different vision of the world around him, seeing "birds that look like stones...and stones that look like b Impressive digital illustrations complement text detailing the imagined childhood experiences and perspective of the boy who would grow up to become celebrated artist Isamu Noguchi. Somehow the text and images seem to channel Isamu as he is drawn to stones and to bamboo, feeling a connection to nature and what others might see as inert objects. It's clear that even as a young boy, he had a different vision of the world around him, seeing "birds that look like stones...and stones that look like birds" (unpaged). The book also makes it clear that Isamu was perfectly content spending time alone, soaking up sights and experiences that may make their way into his dreams and artwork. Back matter includes additional information about this creative spirit. Add this picture book to a collection devoted to artists, creative individuals, and those who march to their own beat.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roben

    James Yang was very inspired by the work of Isamu Noguchi. This book is an imaginary day in the life of young Isamu who grew up to become a famous artist and landscape architect. His father was Japanese and his mother was American. He was born in America but moved to Japan at an early age and then returned to America later for schooling. He created stone sculptures, beautiful gardens, and even furniture! He also experienced prejudice in both America and Japan. This book talks about how being alo James Yang was very inspired by the work of Isamu Noguchi. This book is an imaginary day in the life of young Isamu who grew up to become a famous artist and landscape architect. His father was Japanese and his mother was American. He was born in America but moved to Japan at an early age and then returned to America later for schooling. He created stone sculptures, beautiful gardens, and even furniture! He also experienced prejudice in both America and Japan. This book talks about how being alone with nature is not the same as being lonely. It's a soothing read and the illustrations are lovely. I especially liked the birds that looked like stone - and the stones that looked like birds. Plus - I love the fact that I had not heard of Isamu Noguchi's art and this book encouraged me to find out more about him. Thank you to the publisher for an ARC!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    This book is perfection. If you are expecting a traditional biography, you will be disappointed. But this narrative, written directly to the child reading it (in 2nd person—"If you are Isamu..."), is a biography of a child's emotional being—a bio of the personality that grew into the sculptor and designer that Noguchi became. The quiet, simple, singing prose here perfectly embodies the kind of child he was and the kind of art he made. The back-matter gives just enough info to prompt interested re This book is perfection. If you are expecting a traditional biography, you will be disappointed. But this narrative, written directly to the child reading it (in 2nd person—"If you are Isamu..."), is a biography of a child's emotional being—a bio of the personality that grew into the sculptor and designer that Noguchi became. The quiet, simple, singing prose here perfectly embodies the kind of child he was and the kind of art he made. The back-matter gives just enough info to prompt interested readers to look for more. "[Noguchi] once said, 'When an artist stopped being a child, he would stop being an artist.'" Yang has managed to be a child here. Lucky readers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    James Yang's mixed-media illustrations and story imagine what it might be like in Isamu Noguchi's life. In his author's note, Yang writes that "Isamu was a famous Japanese American artist who made sculptures of paper, wood, and stone, as well as creating landscape design." In this story, we follow Isamu through the noisy market with his mother, then on to various places in nature while he questions and imagines. For example, as the cover shows, Isamu listens to the stone to ask "What is it sayi James Yang's mixed-media illustrations and story imagine what it might be like in Isamu Noguchi's life. In his author's note, Yang writes that "Isamu was a famous Japanese American artist who made sculptures of paper, wood, and stone, as well as creating landscape design." In this story, we follow Isamu through the noisy market with his mother, then on to various places in nature while he questions and imagines. For example, as the cover shows, Isamu listens to the stone to ask "What is it saying?" I imagine the fun it would be to take this book and read it aloud in nature somewhere. What would children connect to? What might they imagine and ask?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Johannah

    WWW - This story and it’s illustrations were so calming. Writing-wise it’s nothing spectacular but imagining as a kiddo would was so mindful and lovely. Would love to use this for WWW to learn a bit about Japan and perhaps tie in with art too!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I don't know Isamu Noguchi, but I don't think you need to. It's more a story of a boy who is comfortable being alone and finding joy in nature. Lovely illustrations. Not much story- more of a mood-setting piece. I don't know Isamu Noguchi, but I don't think you need to. It's more a story of a boy who is comfortable being alone and finding joy in nature. Lovely illustrations. Not much story- more of a mood-setting piece.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annese

    The introvert in me LOVED this!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katelynne

    Loved the illustrations and the message. "You think about how you were alone but not lonely." But this could have been about any child - doesn't feel like a biography to me. Loved the illustrations and the message. "You think about how you were alone but not lonely." But this could have been about any child - doesn't feel like a biography to me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Reagan Kapasi

    Stunning illustrations (simple clean lines) and even text font was eye catching! Bio of an artist as a young boy, alone but not lonely.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Abbigail

    A love letter to child introverts-- that's what I like to see. A love letter to child introverts-- that's what I like to see.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    More about the sensory experience of a quiet, contemplative child. the story's connection to the adult artist is in the afterword or in further research. More about the sensory experience of a quiet, contemplative child. the story's connection to the adult artist is in the afterword or in further research.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nessa

    Super cute picture book about a little boy going on a quiet adventure alone but he wasnt lonely.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ms Threlkeld

    Had a very dreamy quality and made me want to learn more about the artist.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adriel

    Cute. Simple story about curiosity and a connection to nature.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jared White

    An ode to being alone but unlonely and of noticing the simple wonders around you.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I enjoyed the illustrations more than the story. The author's note mentioned Isamu is a family artist. I kind of wish that was at the beginning. Maybe I would have paid more attention. I enjoyed the illustrations more than the story. The author's note mentioned Isamu is a family artist. I kind of wish that was at the beginning. Maybe I would have paid more attention.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pinky

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Isamu likes spending time alone in nature.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    3.5

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Reading for the Mock Caldecott Awards to be held in January 2022. A picture book that just spoke to my heart...probably to the hearts of many readers. The story of Isamu Noguchi, an American artist and landscape architect, is one of a man who since boyhood had appreciated the beauty of nature and solitude. I loved this simple and artistic representation of his early appreciation of the world around him.

  25. 4 out of 5

    L

  26. 4 out of 5

    Van

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Iris Kaneshige

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Em

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