Review: The Noisy Paintbox

Hi everyone,

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you might have noticed that I love picture book biographies. Today’s book also includes an artist that I especially like.


The Noisy Paintbox


 The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock

Illustrated by Mary Grandpré

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Genre: Art, History, Picture Book Biography

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Personal Collection

This picture book biography tells the history of Vasily Kandinsky and his abstract art. Starting with his childhood and moving through both his struggles and successes in adulthood, the story focuses on Kandinsky’s ability to hear colors and how it impacted his work.

Although I like the text of this book and how it addresses Kandinsky’s relationship with color, my favorite part is absolutely the illustrations. They are bright, colorful and loose, and I love the reflections of Kandinsky’s own painting and other abstract work. The text is carefully placed to contribute to the images, and the use of different typefaces for important words is an interesting addition that made me want to look more closely at each page. I particularly like the script used for headings and direct quotes from Kandinsky.

The author’s note at the end of the book is extremely useful in explaining a few details throughout the book. Although the text never mentions synesthesia, the author’s note explains it simply enough that a child could understand. Sometimes author’s notes are clearly not actually meant to be read by the child for whom the book is supposedly intended. Although I think the actual reading level of this note might be challenging for child readers, the content is certainly not. The list of additional resources, however, does seem more suited for an adult audience, although child readers might find more interesting visuals in some of the suggested books and websites. I do love the inclusion of some of Kandinsky’s actual work, which always makes me want to immediately start painting myself.


For more information:

Author Barb Rosenstock’s official website

Illustrator Mary Grandpré’s official website

You may recognize her work from the illustrations and jacket art she created for the Harry Potter series.

Additional information about Kandinsky



**** 4.5/5 stars

Historical fiction about abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky

Interesting overview of life story, creative and appropriate illustration style