Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A. Haring, illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 9780525428190.
When Keith was a little kid, he drew all the time. He drew with his family. He drew in the margins of his schoolwork. As a teen, he listened to loud music in his room and drew. He even sold his bike to buy art supplies. He went to art school and then moved to New York. He drew on everything: walls, posters he stuck on lamp posts, and on blank black paper panels on subway walls in chalk. Even after he was recognized by the art world, he kept putting his art where people could see it for free or buy it cheaply. He painted a huge mural on a children’s hospital in France and he opened a shop where people could buy his art on buttons and T-shirts. As Keith explained it, “I draw all the time because there are many spaces to fill. I give my drawings away to help make the world a better place. I draw everywhere because EVERYONE needs art!” (This is the part of the book where I got weepy.)
The story is told by Keith’s sister, Kay, and she includes some great anecdotes about Keith’s childhood. The scenes depicted in the illustrations include reproductions of Keith’s art back to when he was in second grade! The picture of his big gallery show is a who’s who of influential people in the 70s art scene in New York — it’s like Where’s Waldo? for art nerds. (Hey, it’s Klaus Nomi! Look, there’s Basquiat! Is that Lou Reed?) I liked that it was a story that would be really appealing to kids, with the positive message to keep on drawing, and an inspirational story about a tremendously caring and creative person who died too young. There’s great additional material in the back about Keith’s family, career, the Keith Haring Foundation, and information about all of his art that appears in the illustrations. I will definitely be telling all of the art teachers I know about this one.