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Vasya's Noisy Paint Box: How Vasily Kandinsky's Ears Invented Abstract Art

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  289 ratings  ·  83 reviews
In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds and colors--and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.
Published February 1st 2014 by Not Avail
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Rebecca Honeycutt
Oh man. SO GOOD.

This fittingly colorful and exuberant picture book biography of Kandinsky is pitched just right for young readers. GrandPre captures the stunning, busy, dynamic quality of Kandinsky's art with astonishing panache. (Seriously, you just want to stare at these illustrations and let the colors seep into your soul.) Rosenstock's simple but deeply expressive text bursts with lively onomatopoeia, underscored by the changing typefaces. The author's note at the end reproduces some of Kand...more
This is called historical fiction, but it still seems to be a great introduction for younger students to learn some beginning information about abstract art Kandinsky in particular. It is a gorgeous book, proper and rather un-colorful pictures showing the beginning and proper beginning of the artist’s life. He actually began knowing he “heard” colors early in his life, but gave them up to go to law school. Kandinsky was a lawyer! What is described reminds me of Wendy Mass’s book, A Mango-Shaped...more
Enter the amazing world of abstract art with this picture book biography of Kandinsky. Vasya Kandinsky was raised to be a very proper young Russian boy. Then his Auntie gave him a box of paints and he started to hear colors as sounds. No one else could hear the sounds, but to Vasya they were a symphony that he could paint. Vasya grew up and stopped painting. He still heard the colors around him, but he was going to be a lawyer. When he attended the opera one evening, Vasya saw the colors emerge...more
Cathy Blackler
Rosenstock's fictionalized account of Kadinsky's determination to listen to his dreams works nicely with Mary GrandPre's striking illustrations. Nice back matter provides readers with additional information.
A fascinating portrait of Vasya Kandinsky and his art. I enjoyed learning about Kandinsky's early life and his "extra" sense that enabled him to hear colors and see music in colors. It was this ability that led him to create works that came to be known as abstract art, capturing the feelings created by the combined music and colors. GrandPre has painted interesting illustrations to accompany the story, incorporating some of Kandinsky's art into the later pages. The final pages provide additional...more
This book made me want to paint, listen to music, go see some Kandinskys... I hope it does the same for kids.
This look at Kandinsky's formative years and his path to creating the art that would become his legacy is simply fascinating. It so perfectly captures the idea that art is an emotional experience for both the creator and the viewer that Kandinsky recognized from an early age.

The text is so full of descriptive language that it gives readers a view of the world similar to the way a person with synesthesia might experience it.

The ending invites readers to explore Kandinsky's artwork and form their...more
This is the fascinating story of Vasya Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art. He was a proper boy in Russia, studying math, science, and history (the illustrations show him as bored and uninspired while doing so) until he was given a box of paints. When he mixed the colors together, he heard a hiss that turned into a symphony. Now he was motivated and inspired! The music he heard in the colors drove him to paint wildly, not properly like his teachers wanted him to. He tried to conform a...more
"The Noisy Paint Box," by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary Grandpre, is a lovely addition to the list of picture books published so far in 2014.

Vasya Kandinsky, the subject of this biographical book, grew up in a life of privilege in Russia. Though he was a good and "proper" boy, he was bored - until the day his Auntie gave him a wooden box of paints and brushes. He discovered that as he mixed colors, he also heard beautiful music. This became the inspiration for his abstract paintings. W...more
"I could hear the hiss of the colors as they mingled."

A fictionalized account of the life of Vasily Kandinsky. Expected to be proper and like everyone else, his artistic ability was not seen as an asset - especially since he didn't like to paint houses or people. He wanted to paint "the colors he heard." He felt that "Art should make you feel." But, doing what others expected of him, be became a law professor. However, "he couldn't ignore the sounds of the colors singing to him in the streets of...more
Young readers may wonder how art can possibly speak, but for artist Vasily Kandinsky, the colors he used for his drawings sang and those sounds actually danced. Although he had a very proper upbringing and was trained in classic artist styles, he eventually rebelled and painted what he saw, felt, and heard. Young readers are likely to be inspired by this man's creativity and his exploration of art that would come to be known as abstract. The acrylic paint and paper collage illustrations are just...more
The tricky part about illustrated biographies of artists is giving a sense of their style, while still allowing the illustrator to illustrate their own story. Mary GrandPre succeeds - and while her style is unlike Kandinsky's abstract art, she absolutely conveys that sense of his art speaking to him, appealing to multiple senses. As young Vasya goes from his dull, polite world to the world of art, GrandPre's illustrations brighten. Vasya's colors spill out from his paintings, and the palette con...more
A simple story of the life of Vasya Kandinsky, the Russion artist who began the Abstract Art movement. Kandinsky first received a paint set from his aunt and quickly learned that he heard wondrous music when he mixed the colors and painted. But his parents wanted him to focus on academics. And his art teacher wanted him to paint houses, flowers, trees. Kandinsky wasn't happy.

Eventually as an adult he decided to make painting his career. But the critics didn't like his work. He didn't care. He wa...more
This is a wonderful biography about Vasily Kandinsky and shows his determination to create artwork the way he wanted to, despite pressures from family, teachers, and friends to create more traditional pieces. The narrative is very interesting and focuses on the way the colors sang to him and really inspired him to create a new type of art - abstract art.

The illustrations are marvelous and we loved the way Mary GrandPré depicted the colors singing to Vasya and the way music brought an array of c...more
This is an excellent picture book biography, giving a brief outline of Kandinsky's childhood, his interest in art, and his development of abstract art. The acrylic and collage illustrations are brilliant, flowing, free, and highly colorful. There is high contrast between Kandinsky's exuberant abstracts and the traditional, realistic paintings hanging in the family home. Mary Grandpre is well-known for her book cover illustrations of the American editions of the seven Harry Potter books. She is v...more
Read  Ribbet
Proving again the power of picture book biographies, Rosenstock tells the story of Russian Painter Vasya Kandinsky whose life is never the same when he discover the sounds of colors in a gift paint box. We watch Kandinsky's efforts to capture the sound of colors in his art while others try to rechannel his unusual ways. Eventually we see him follow his instinct and go his own way paving the way for abstract art.
The illustrations evoke a similar style. Rosenstock captures this important life and...more
If you have a project which involves studying a famous artist and abstract art, this biography on Kandinsky is a great resource to use. A fantastic picture book biography that explores how one ordinary little boy named Vansa Kandinsky became one of the most (and first) accomplished painters in abstract art and describes how Vasya Kandinsky's creative life was profoundly shaped by a neurological condition called synesthesia which caused him to experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors. A...more
I really enjoyed the book, not only because it is a biography of a great artist and is well illustrated, but because it describes his synesthesia. I hadn't heard of associating sounds with colors, though I oddly associate numbers with colors. Luckily my world is a bit quieter than his! In any case, I really love children's books which describe kids with differences, but do not portray them as "disabilities." Kandinsky was just wired a little differently than the rest of us, and sharing his synes...more

From grey, brown and muted blues to the introduction of muted pinks, yellows, green to vibrant colors appearing on the pages, this tale of Kandinsky's introduction to art as a child to his emergence as an artist as an adult is well-suited to a picture book format. Good author's note which includes both info about synesthesia and a few photos of Kandinsky's paintings (I just wish they were larger). Great intro to Kandinsky, abstract art and the question 'how does it make you feel?' when looking a...more
What if you could see music dancing and hear colors singing? If you could, you might be like Vasily Kandinsky, a Russian artist, who found sound in his paint box: "whisper, hiss! HISS!" and colors filling his senses when he went to the opera.
The expressions of his boyhood faces reflect his lack of enthusiasm and interest in typical, acceptable, 'proper' topics. Children will relate to his facial expressions; my favorite page is the adults talking newsprint while he and the fish are totally bored...more
As a child Vasily Kandinsky learned to be a proper Russian boy: studying hard in school, practicing piano, and sitting mannerly at a dinner table full of adults. But everything changed the day his aunt gave him a box of paints. Suddenly, colors came alive for Vasya, as each shade created new sounds in his ears.

Eventually growing weary of his adult life as a lawyer, Kandinsky quit his job teaching law in Moscow and moved to Munich to be a painter. The famous teachers he studied with didn't unders...more
An excellent introduction to abstract art as well as being true to yourself. While this is a fictionalized take on Kandinsky's life, the facts are true and fascinating. I think my students will love this and be inspired to create their own paintings. It was interesting to read the biography at the back and hear that Kandinsky might have had synesthesia, a condition where one sense can trigger another sense (seeing music, hearing colors etc.). The illustrations are gorgeous in this book as well.
Anne Broyles
Another great bio with little-known details about the artist who created abstract art. Rosenstock's vivid language brings "the noisy paint box" to life with phrases such as "Stomping lines of vermilion and coral. Caroling triangles in pistachio and garnet. Thundering arches of aqua and ebony, with shrill points of cobalt and saffron." Grandpre's paintings match Kandinsky's story and style of art.

Includes Author's Note, a sampling of K's paintings, Sources and "For more info...".
Simply beautiful picture book biography (illustrated by Mary GrandPre of Harry Potter fame) of how Vasily Kandinsky grew up into a groundbreaking abstract artist. Did you know he had mild synesthesia? Back matter includes Author's Note, Sources, and images of his paintings.

"Is it a house?" "Is it a flower?" "What's it supposed to be?"
"It's my art," Vasya answered. "How does it make you feel?"
Mrs. Knott
Great story of Kandinsky and how he transformed his art into abstract art. Great introduction to this artist, and the author did a great job choosing just the right words to bring the story to life and the illustrator's work just draws your eyes to the page. This book will leave young readers asking "why?"... why did he have to change his paintings? why did he hear sounds when he painted?
Josh Jackson
A wonderfully colorful book about the pioneer of abstract art, Vasya Kadinsky. I never knew he was the one to come up with this wonderfully imaginative art style, and I bet most students don't either! This is a great read aloud for any classroom, especially art class. It has a great message of using your imagination and persevering even when others force you to do something else.
What I have never been able to do is to see color when hearing sounds or to hear sounds when seeing color. Artist Vasily Kandinsky could. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art (Alfred A. Knopf) written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Mary GrandPre traces his creative life from his youth into adulthood.

Full review:
A lovely story of Vasya Kandinsky's journey to abstract art. Synesthesia is fascinating. A little detail that I loved is the invitation in the back matter to "someday go and hear" Kandinsky's paintings. A detail that could be improved is the highly stylized script used for Kandinsky's quotes and the headings in the back matter. I found it difficult to read, particularly the red text.
As nice as this book is, I won't be buying it for my library unless it actually wins the Caldecott. Picture book biographies don't do well in my library. The kids who have biography assignments for school don't check them out because they don't have dates or meet the page requirement set by their teachers. They don't really circ well in our picture book section either.
I'm currently in an MFA program compiling research for my thesis on "visual music". I was researching Kandinsky and synesthesia at the library and came across this book, and it was so adorable it caught my attention and I read it.

It's so beautiful! A lovely story with beautiful illustrations. It recounts the birth of abstract art (Kandinsky) as a fable. Really sweet!
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