Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
Written and Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

Publisher’s Summary:
Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

Primary Source Pairing:
In this in-depth look into an artist’s childhood and creative life, author and illustrator Javaka Steptoe has created a masterpiece to honor the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze Crown created by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Read the Author’s Note and focus on the “Motifs and Symbolism in Basquiat’s Work” section. Use the book and illustrations to enhance this visual literacy experience by going back through the pages looking for the crown, eyes, cars, trucks, and airplanes that were often included in Basquiat’s artwork that Javaka Steptoe has used in the illustrations in this book.

To continue to study the work of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, gather images of his paintings and prints for students to analyze. Spread out the images across the instructional space, and invite students to slowly look at each one until they find an image that is most interesting to them. Students can individually analyze the image and share with a partner or small group.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • What other details can you see?
  • What tools and materials were used to create it?
  • What can you learn from examining this?
  • What do you see that is similar to other artwork created by Jean-Michel Basquiat?
  • How are Basquiat’s paintings similar to the artwork created by Javaka Steptoe for the book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Crown Painting: WikiArt