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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  6,206 ratings  ·  889 reviews
Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
Jean-Michel 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,
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  6,206 ratings  ·  889 reviews

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Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To see this review and learn more about Jean-Michel, please visit my blog

Radiant child by Javaka Steptoe, a book about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was awarded the Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished picture book for children earlier this year.

The book takes you through Jean-Michel's childhood and all of his inspiration and ideas about how he wants to be an artist. He's influenced by books, art museums and at times his mother.

We thoroughly enjoyed the story wh
True Story: I’m working the children’s reference desk of the Children’s Room at 42nd Street of New York Public Library a couple years ago and a family walks in. They go off to read some books and eventually the younger son, I’d say around four years of age, approaches my desk. He walks right up to me, looks me dead in the eye, and says, “I want all your Javaka Steptoe books.” Essentially this child was a living embodiment of my greatest dream for mankind. I wish every single kid in America follo ...more
Tina Haigler
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, non-fiction
This is a non fiction children's book about a very popular artist from New York City. The story itself is made child appropriate--leaving out his drug addiction and early death at 27--and while it has a few sad parts, it also has a lot of wonderful moments. Although the art featured in the book isn't Basquiat's--it's the author's work done as a tribute--it is absolutely beautiful regardless. The color is vibrant, and the collage style of painting on found objects and scraps was lovely. This book ...more
How rare to learn so much from a children's book. Maybe not that rare, and yet I learned so much. I never watched the movie about Basquiat I meant to so this was all new to me. I love this book and the story is fascinating to me.

First the Art, Wow, I'm blown away. Javaka used wood and things from all over the city in the style of Basquiat to do his own work for this book. So it is original art that is inspired by Basquiat and his style to tell his story. I love that stuff. So beautiful and now I
In many ways, Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child is simply and gracefully a beautifully told account, presenting not only how and even why Jean-Michel Basquiat becomes an artist but also that art is for one in the eye of the beholder (and that what some might consider beautiful, others might not, although this could and should have been a bit more specifically and clearly demonstrated and pointed out by the author, as there exists in my opinion some potential areas of and for confusion) and for two ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, non-fiction, picture
This is beautifully illustrated and a good introduction to Basquiat's art style.
Biographically, it focuses on his childhood and the importance of his mother, which is probably a good choice, since there is so much of his adult and even teen years that I can see many parents not wanting their kids to read about.

I'm always conflicted about this issue, in general. I can see not wanting to talk about drug abuse and pansexuality; on the other hand it seems a bit disingenuous to leave those out when
An introduction to the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with an emphasis on his formative influences and meteoric rise to fame. I really like how this book reads. The way the author deals with Basquiat's mother's mental illness is age-appropriate and does a great job of showing how important her influence was on his work as well as how much her absence in the home affected him.

I also like that this book takes readers only up to the point that Basquait attains success, not to his untimely dea
I have such conflicting emotions from this book. I thought the art was dynamic and did a great job describing and showing the kind of artist Basquiat became and his artistic progression from childhood to adulthood. But when so many momentous life events are left out of the book and the afterword, I think we're removing a lot of the struggles that Basquiat overcame and would've undoubtedly influenced his artwork as well as who he became as a person. I understand that you may edit a book for age a ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens, biography, art
A beautifully illustrated biography of the inspiring life and untimely death of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
3.5 out of 5

I've never heard about Jean-Michel Basquiat before, so Radiant Child did an excellent job showing me what I've been missing out on. I especially appreciate the additional information about Basquiat and his art in the back matter, but I wish there were some examples of his work somewhere in the book.

However, Radiant Child did encourage me to venture into the online world and further acquaint myself with Basquiat and his art, which is exactly what Javaka Steptoe has intended. Such an u
Laura Harrison
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The artwork is vibrant and creative. The true story is honest and tragic. It has a terrific chance at winning the Coretta Scott King Award for 2017. It would be so cool and fantastic if he won the John Steptoe award.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I, too, found it difficult to enjoy Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat though I could appreciate the effort. Although, I'm not sure how I felt about the author calling Jean-Michel's artwork "sloppy, ugly and sometimes weird, but somehow still BEAUTIFUL" -- I'm not sure I liked the labeling of the artwork like that. On the one hand, I can appreciate conveying to children that art doesn't have to be "pretty" to be appreciated or worthy. That sometimes we can express diff ...more
Nancy Kotkin
Text: 3 stars
Illustrations: 3 stars

Picture book biography of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who I had never heard of prior to reading this book. Clearly I'm in the minority, and I'm missing something the Caldecott committee and many others can see, but I'm not in love with this book. I appreciate a diverse range of art styles, but the illustrations in this book are just not my thing. As a biography, I'm still not sure after reading it how Basquiat became famous. I also disagree with burying the me
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Every child, artistic or not, should read this book. Often, American art finds itself admired via white lives and not the splendor found through black hands.

Jean-Michel Basquiat shared his art for a short time. His glory will live on in galleries, museums, and in stories for children showing how his dream become reality.

Jan 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Javaka Steptoe's original artwork in this book won it the 2017 Caldecott Medal as the previous year's most distinguished American picture book, but he's not the artist who takes center stage in Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. A youth of no extravagant financial means who rose to stardom through imagination and pure talent, it's impossible to know how many artists Jean-Michel inspired. One of them, Javaka Steptoe, repays that inspiration in this book, a warm tribute ...more
I love Basquiat - which is why I was disappointed in this picture book. I don't appreciate the sugar-coating of facts even for children. Just say he was "homeless," he was a "graffiti artist," etc. The illustrations are beautiful, however it is odd to have a book about an artist and not include Basquiat's actual art, rather have the illustrator express the artists work within his own illustrations. Huh?!? ...more
This book is very important. I love Steptoe's mixed-media collage paintings, his narrative, and the historical information at the end of the book. I specifically appreciate Steptoe's emphasis on mental health and healing. ...more
This book felt more like a tribute to the artist than a biography. Outside of the short summary of his life on the back page, there was very little information for a child to come away with. I was hard pressed after reading the main text to come up with any influences or points of development as an artist aside from the single mention of a trip to a museum to see Picasso. Obviously the Caldecott is awarded for the illustrations, but I was disappointed that the book did not contain more copies of ...more
Abrupt ending. Stunning art.
May 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Using vivid and bold images and pieces of New York City, Javaka Steptoe created a marvelous visionary interpretation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork. Before he became famous in the 1980's, Basquiat saw art all around him in books, words, museums, and games. His work was not pretty nor neat but passionate and energized. While recovering from being hit by a car at seven years old, his mother gave him Gray’s Anatomy, which influenced his art. He was raised by a loving Puerto Rican mother with men ...more
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, graphic, history
2017 Caldecott Winner
A true story of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Lots of colorful pages. Each page could be viewed for a couple minutes taking in all the detail. Heartfelt story. I just don't know that the book passes the 'again' test for kids. It is a good story to hear how he overcame his struggle when his mom had to leave per mental difficulties. Then visits his mom to show her the art he is making.
Marjorie Ingall
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grownups, kids-6-12
I'm annoyed that my enjoyable history of sniffing at Caldecott Medal winners has come to a screeching halt.


Steptoe's art is divine, giving the reader a great sense of Basquiat's style without feeling in itself scribbly, cryptic or off-putting. And given how FREAKING SAD Basquiat's life was, the fact that Steptoe wrote a truthful, poetic and honest but not depressing picture book for kids about him and his work is such an achievement. (The back matter goes into more detai
Mississippi Library Commission
Sometimes you sit down to read an award-winning book and think, "Huh... What did the committee see here that I didn't?" Sometimes, though, you read an award-winning book and think, "Wow! The committee nailed this one and I would vote for it myself one hundred plus times." The latter was most definitely the case with Radiant Child, which won the Caldecott medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and was listed on multiple must-read book lists.

Steptoe does an amazing job tackling the li
Just as his subject, Jean-Michel Basquiat, did, the author relies on found objects, including wood and other materials found in New York City, to create the illustrations here. The colors are bright and fill the pages, serving as apt visual reminders to readers that art is often messy and moves beyond the lines and pages. While the author clearly doesn't address some of the artist's personal struggles, including drug addiction, until the back matter, he does make it clear that life wasn't easy f ...more
"Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things." It is so important to have a picture-book biography of this young, of-our-era black artist. Javaka Steptoe creates many fine balances here. He notes Basquiat's mother's mental illness ("his mother's mind is not well, and the family breaks") in a way that isn't too scary but leaves discussion open. He shows the style and sense o ...more
Vannessa Anderson
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youth-children
Jean-Michel Basquait knew as a young child he wanted to be an artist and we readers could see because he spent almost all of his time painting. He learned to appreciate art from his mother who designed and sewed, cooked and cleaned and through her hard work their home looked like a stylish magazine. Jean-Michel’s mother would join him on the floor and draw with him. His mom helped him learn to appreciate art by taking him to museums and theatre. She taught him art is everywhere even in the words ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I have to admit I've never seen Basquiat's artwork before, even though I've heard of him. However, now that I've read this little biography, I feel compelled to look up some of his paintings. I love Javaka Steptoe's illustrations in this one, and, since he created them based on the works of Basquiat, I think I'll like Basquiat's as well. Steptoe used found objects, objects associated with street life, to paint his illustrations on, which is what Basquiat did. It's too bad that Basquiat died so y ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A terrific picture book that doubles as excellent nonfiction. It's the story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who grew up in Brooklyn and discover his talent for art very early. His art was colorful and interesting and definitely not traditional in any sense. Sadly, he passed away at an early age due to drug addiction.

Steptoe's illustrations are amazing and complex; a real tribute to his subject.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the true story of Jean-Michel Basquiat's journey to become a famous artist. It's a story about perseverance and overcoming hardship, about family and putting your heart into your work. It's beautifully done.

I think this would be a great mentor text to use as an art teacher doing a unit on collage and abstract contemporary art.
Simply beautiful. Text is perfect for the stunning illustrations. I look forward to sharing this book with customers, putting it on display for customers and purchasing a copy for my home library.
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Caldecott 1 4 Jan 23, 2017 07:02AM  

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Son of the great John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1998 for his debut in illustration, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall. ...more

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