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BEFORE I GREW UP by John Miller


by John Miller ; illustrated by Giuliano Cucco

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-59270-361-6
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

This imagined story of artist Cucco captures the time before he “grew up and became an artist.”

After hearing about Cucco’s death in 2006, Miller—who had previously collaborated with Cucco on two children’s books—linked a series of Cucco’s paintings to tell this first-person story about the artist’s childhood. Weaving together these heretofore-unconnected oil paintings, many of them deeply atmospheric and enigmatic, results in a somewhat inscrutable narrative. Readers wanting something on the unconventional side may find it thrilling, and the book could serve as a compelling classroom writing prompt. One Hopper-esque painting depicts a man, seen from behind through an open door, sitting near a body of water; it is paired with text about a father who studied the “kind of light he said was inaccessible.” Another painting of a man floating in a blue sky reads: “Sometimes, I would dream that I could float into the sky like a bird.” This series of impressions—about Cucco’s childhood years, parents, moments in nature, dreams, life in the city before an eventual return to the country, and more—possesses a predominantly upbeat, if sometimes cryptic, tone. (One spread is about dreams that were “dark and scary” and features a more sinister, shadowy image.) The paintings are highly textured and richly colored, many showcasing a vivid, sunny yellow. All characters are White.

A thought-provoking conversation starter for art lovers of all ages.

(Picture book. 6-12)