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32pp, color

8in x 10in

7 to 11
February 2020







Age Range:



Download Curriculum Guide

    ”What a magnificent book, suffused with love and joy! I will never again see the color brown without looking for the many textures and colors within it. I wish I had this book when my brown-skinned children were young. I will buy copies for every child I know.”

    — Joan Steinau Lester, award-winning author of Black, White, Other

    “Marshall’s realistic and well-researched artwork is as rich and textured as the life of Laura Wheeler Waring. The story is authentic, and as I read it, I could almost smell oil paints and thinners long gone from my own studio. Thank you to Nancy Churnin and Felicia Marshall for bringing to light a story to be enjoyed by boys and girls, whites and blacks and browns — and everyone in between.”

    — Don Tate, award-winning author-illustrator of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

    “A beautiful representation of an interesting painter that teachers — and budding artists — will especially appreciate.”

    — Michele Bellah, Copperfield’s Books

Beautiful Shades of Brown:

The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring

By Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by Felicia Marshall

    Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn't see any artists who looked like her. She didn't see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. So when she was offered a commission to paint portraits of accomplished African Americans, she jumped at the chance. Writers, singers, political activists, and thinkers all posed for her. Now her portraits hang in Washington, D.C.'s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book

Eureka! Nonfiction Book Award Honoree

Northern Lights Book Award Winner

    "Intended for young readers ages 7-11, especially young black girls, Beautiful Shades of Brown is a picturebook biography of Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948), a female African-American artist who skillfully painted portraits of important African-Americans of her day. Many of her portraits became part of the collections of major museums. Informative, inspiring, and enhanced with a timeline as well as reproductions of some of Waring's most beloved portraits, Beautiful Shades of Brown is highly recommended for both school and public library children's collections."

    — Midwest Book Review

    "Laura Wheeler Waring (1887–1948) combined colors to create the exact shades of brown that depicted the skin tones of the loved ones she painted. Artistic representation during the time period Waring came of age was far from inclusive. Portraits of African Americans and artwork created by black artists were not welcomed into museums. Waring pursued her passion and was eventually commissioned to paint important African American people for a traveling exhibit that displayed her art in the Smithsonian and other museums. This biography succeeds by keeping its focus on Waring’s artistic journey. When discussing her portrait of singer Marian Anderson, Churnin forms an emotional link between these two women and spotlights the potential for their work to break barriers. The straightforward narrative allows young readers to connect with Waring as a person, recognize her dedication to her craft, and appreciate her accomplishments. The recurring theme of brown as a complex and beautiful color is an effective metaphor for the celebration of African American people and culture central to Waring’s work. Marshall’s painted illustrations are an artistic tribute rendered in the style of Waring’s paintings. VERDICT A meticulously crafted account of a trailblazing artist. Recommended for general purchase, particularly for libraries looking to include more biographies of black women artists."

    — School Library Journal

    "This beautiful picture book about a trailblazing artist celebrates self-expression, diversity, and welcoming different points of view."

    — A Mighty Girl

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