Review: A Splash of Red

Hi everyone,

Today we have another picture book biography of a very different artist than those we’ve reviewed earlier this month!


Splash of Red


A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

Genre: Art, History, Picture Book Biography

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Public Library

*Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

This picture book tells the story of Horace Pippin, starting with his interest in art as a child. As he grows up, he fights in World War I, and his injuries prevent him from drawing or painting. Yet Pippin isn’t one to give up and learns to make art once again, despite the challenges he faces.

I’d never heard of Pippin before, so I thought this was an interesting look into his life. He has a very inspiring story, and I think he deserves more recognition than he seems to be receiving. Pippin overcomes severe injuries, financial troubles, and disinterest in his work to ultimately become a successful artist. In fact, I could have used even a little more detail about some of the most important events in his life, especially his experiences during the war. Although those experiences seemed to be a major turning point in Pippin’s life, I did think the text glossed over them a little too much and left a few questions behind instead. However, the thread of art and its influence throughout his life is particularly clear. Sweet created interpretations of Pippin’s work throughout the book and incorporated various quotations into the images. Her illustrations show her characteristic style but are less collaged than some of her other books.

I particularly like the author/illustrator notes in this book. I think a lot of people are surprised that authors and illustrators don’t often collaborate on their work, and it was nice to find an example of a book where they have actually worked very closely together. It’s interesting to see how their interpretations of the experience compare.

The end of the book also includes a great list of resources for additional research. Don’t forget to check out the endpapers! The back endpapers include a map of places you can see Horace Pippin’s art and some images of his artwork.


For more information:

Author Jen Bryant’s official website

Illustrator Melissa Sweet’s official website

Check out our other review of a book by Jen Bryant here:

The Right Word

Check out our other reviews of books illustrated by Melissa Sweet here:

The Right Word

Balloons Over Broadway

Little Red Writing



*** 3/5 stars

Interesting, unique story of a lesser-known artist

Melissa Sweet’s characteristic art style