The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art

Did you know that today is World Art Day? Declared a holiday in 2012 by the International Association of Art, World Art Day is a day dedicated to celebrating art and creativity internationally. So in honor of this day, I want to share The People’s Painter by Cynthia Levinson with you all today.

This wonderful picture book biography details the life of Ben Shahn, a Jewish artist, immigrant, and activist who used his discerning sense of justice and artistic talent to bring awareness to social issues throughout his career – issues such as the executions of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1927, the struggles of rural Americans during the Great Depression, and much more.

Beginning with his childhood in Lithuania, where Ben’s father was banished for demanding worker’s rights, The People’s Painter teaches young readers about Ben Shahn’s passion for justice. Following his immigration to America, we learn the ways Ben Shahn pushed back against his teachers’ ideas of art. The People’s Painter is not only educational, but a great resource to encourage children to expose injustice and stand up for marginalized communities the same way Ben Shahn did — by finding their voice and following it.

The illustrations by Evan Turk feature bold expressive paintings, drawing parallels to Shahn’s work, creating the perfect backdrop for his story.

The People’s Painter officially releases next week (April 20, 2021), but you can preorder it today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Cynthia Levinson is the author of The Youngest Marcher, and the winner of both the Crystal Kite and Carter G. Woodson awards. Please visit her website at cynthialevinson.com to learn more about her and her work.

Evan Turk is an author, animator, and Ezra Jack Keats Book Award–winning illustrator. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at evanturk.squarespace.com.

I would like to thank Abrams Books For Young Readers for providing me a copy of this wonderful book. I can’t think of a better title for World Art Day, and I’m so honored to share Ben Shahn’s story with you all today.

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