Kid Lit Review of “Breaking Waves: Winslow Homer Paints the Sea” by Robert Burleigh

Winslow Homer, born in 1836, became a famous American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art, and he was largely self-taught.

The author addresses the question that interested Homer and will interest readers as well: how can paint and canvas tell the true story of what you see before you? Burleigh writes that Winslow didn’t know the answer, but knew he must keep trying to find it with respect to ocean views.

He never tired of wandering the coast in Prouts Neck, Maine, and gazing at the ocean, noticing all of its changes throughout the year. He moved between the coast and his studio, trying to capture what he saw.

Although there is narration that includes quotes from Homer’s diaries, most of the story is told through the gorgeous watercolors of Wendell Minor. Homer used watercolors on a regular basis (albeit not exclusively), and is considered to have had a revolutionary impact on its use as a medium.

Minor’s illustrations mimic Homer’s palette and effectively show different aspects of the shore that so fascinated Homer.

Backmatter includes “More About Winslow Homer” (notably, unlike many author’s notes, written in a style accessible to younger readers), a bibliography, and a hypertext-linked guide to where to see his work.

Evaluation: This introduction to a great American artist for kids 4 and over also serves as a look at how artists work, and indeed, how hard they work, in order to create something out of what inspires them.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, 2021

Shore and Surf, Nassau
1899, by Winslow Homer, Met Museum of Art, public domain

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