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The Noisy Paint Box

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,727 Ratings  ·  483 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 as colors--and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published January 31st 2014)
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Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books

Every single person sees the world in a different way. I learned that lesson early on. One of my brothers is color blind, which fascinated me to no end as a child. I bugged, hassled, and quizzed him every chance I got—What color is that? And that? What about this? Haha….He refuses to answer any color related questions to this day because of me. :)

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art tells the story of how Vasya Kandinsky saw the world and how abstract art came t
I really like the illustrations. GrandPré definitely has a unique style. The two-page picture of Vasya at the opera is one of my favourite scenes, as well as the one of him standing in his studio. I'll definitely have to look up his art - the examples shown in the book are really interesting.

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
Crystal Marcos
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review is a combined review from my 7 year old who has been interested in art for a while now (I suspect will remain interested) and myself. I have been looking for books to encourage her, I have a desire to find her books about artists who were also interested in art at a young age. My daughter has a unique style of art and is attracted to unique artwork. When we look at art she finds beauty in pieces I struggle to find. I was excited about this particular book because the artist, Vasily K ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I've never been a fan of abstract art, including Kandinsky's, but now, after reading this book, I understand what drove him, and I have a new appreciation of his work. Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors, which is a form of synesthesia, a condition unknown in his day. If you could hear the same way he did, his paintings might make beautiful music when you look at them! That may be the key to understanding all abstract art--you need to be able to see it the way the artist ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Linda Lipko
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a well-deserved Caldecott honor book. The illustrations are story meld together to create a wonderful story of Vasily Kandinsky, the well-known abstract artist. As a child Vasily did what he was told. Feeling he was different and thus very constrained it took awhile for the boy to become the man who embraced his differences and in doing so left behind incredible art.

Hearing colors as musical notes that danced and sung in the air is how the artist perceived art. This is a wonderful story
Adrienne Furness
Winner of a 2015 Caldecott Honor. Inspired me to wrap my mind around some Kandinsky. Inspiring in general.
My interview with Barb Rosenstock:
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
This book made me want to paint, listen to music, go see some Kandinskys... I hope it does the same for kids.
The Noisy Paint Box, by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Mary Grandpre

This historical fiction book is about a little boy who is primp and proper, but one day given a paint box that ultimately changes his whole world. Vasily, the boys name, hears the sounds of the paint, which make him feel alive. Instead of making beautiful art like proper artists would, Vasily mixed his paint colors and let the paint brush guide him into making abstract art. The characters in the story thought he was crazy, maki
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I decided to read this because I'm interested in synesthesia and I also enjoy Kandinsky's art. Looking at his paintings before understanding synesthesia one would just assume they are abstract, but after reading this it makes sense that he would have synesthesia as music would put off colors in his head, inspiring him to paint. The illustrations in this book were beautiful!
Vasya Kandinsky was a obedient, well behaved, typical Russian child. He spent his childhood studying math, science, and history as his parents expected from him. However, he felt as if something was missing until the day his aunt gave him a small wooden paint box. Vasya felt as if the colors would speak to him; he could heard the brush swish and the colors rhythmically twirl as notes in a song. He was full of excitement by looking at how the colors turned into figures in a canvas, forming beauti ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
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
Mooka Srisurayotin
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Art should make you feel” one of my favorite quote from the book. I love arts, especially modern and abstract styles, but abstract art seems to be a very hard concept for some people to understand. Just like how Vasya Kandinsky's parent sent him to art classes, they expected him to draw something pretty such as flowers or houses, like a proper artist do. Yet he interpreted art in a totally opposite way, he created the art the way he feel and what he hear the sound.
Throughout this book there ar
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rll-538
The Noisy Paint Box is a look in to the life of the young Vasily Kandinsy. Kandinsky was one the first artists to create abstract paintings. Through the vibrant illustrations by Mary Grandpre, Barb Rosenstock tells the unique story of how the colors in his precious paint box spoke to him though music. “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony.” He was misunderstood by his parents and teachers who did not understand that his art could not be classified simply ...more
4.5 out of 5
The beautiful writing and gorgeous illustrations work EXTREMELY well in telling this fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, a Russian painter who created abstract art and who most likely had synesthesia (i.e., he experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors):

"It took a long time for people to understand.
'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?'"
Jul 03, 2015 added it
Shelves: j-picture-books
Popularity/appeal rating: 3.5

Quality rating: 5

In a one-sentence nutshell:
This is a beautiful book. It made me wish there were more children's books about synesthesia, because it's such a cool phenomenon. Personally, I don't really like Kandinsky's artwork, which makes me feel like an uncultured twit, especially since I was an art history major in college. But this book opened my mind up, at least a little bit - when I look at his paintings as visual expressions of sound, they make a little more
I just got around to reading this Caldecott Honor book. I enjoyed it and actually think I understand synesthesia better. I certainly didn't know it could take 60 different forms! In any case it is speculation but apparently fairly solid speculation that Kandinsky had synesthesia. From his description it is almost certain he did. However, they didn't have genetic testing back then that could have confirmed it. The illustrations are lovely. It is nice to see Grandpre doing more than the HP covers ...more
This beautiful picture book written by Barb Rosenstock tells the story of abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky. Rosenstock's prose reminds one of lyrical music Kandinsky may have listened to as he attended the opera with his aunt while a young man. The story helps the young reader to understand more fully how art is not just pictures of "houses and trees", but rather the expression of a person and his/her understanding and portrayal of the world around him or her. Mary Grandpre's illustrations are r ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll-539
This colorful story tells of one of the first abstract artists, Vasya Kandinsky. He was being taught to become a proper Russian boy. He was to be well educated and well rounded, this meant learning about art. As Vasya opened his first set of paints he felt as if the paint box was playing music, so he painted those sounds. His family expected him to paint more traditional art work, Vasya wanted to paint what he felt.

Grades: K-8
Uses: Discussions on abstract art, artistic style, biographies, color
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book kind of fell in my lap. As in, I saw it on a list that had won an award and thought. Hey, let's read this. Kandinsky had a rare condition called synesthesia. He could hear colors. Well, after reading up on it. I realized that I am not weird (weirder than I always thought) and I have a different form of it! I've always thought that certain numbers are different colors. For example, the number 5 to me is green and the number 4 is red and 9 is purple. I could go on...but...who knew you co ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Kristine Hansen
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
While I was familiar with the work of Kandinsky, I hadn't been aware that he had 'heard' color - a condition that I've heard of but didn't know much about. I'm fascinated by how he saw the world, and how he applied that to his art. What an interesting man! Loved the book - the illustrations captured the story perfectly and the notes in the back gave a nice bit of background for those who want to go a bit deeper.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I have always been fascinated by Kandinsky's works and had tried, without success, to try to interpret many of his pieces. Now that this book has let me know about his synesthesia, I am even more fascinated by what he painted and feel less stressed out by my inability to comprehend his work. Although I liked the story, I found the illustrations to dark and a stark contrast to the vibrant colors I am used to seeing in Kandinsky work.
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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?"
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So I read this on a recommendation from a children's librarian I worked with, she thought it should have won the Caldecott and I can see why. The illustrations are phenomenal. The story is told in such a way as to introduce kids to the concept of abstract art as well as the importance of being who you are.
Cathy Blackler
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Laura Harrison
Sep 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Very happy about the subject material. The illustrations are classic Mary GrandPre. Lovely but nothing particularly new or different. I am a little suprised it won the Caldecott. I am thrilled that so many honors were given this year. A marvelous year for picture book art.
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