Niko Draws a Feeling

illus. by Simone Shin. 32p. Carolrhoda. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467798433.
RedReviewStarK-Gr 3—A dedicated young artist finds a friend who understands his vision in this picture book ode to the creative spirit. Niko carries a pad of paper and a box of colored pencils everywhere he goes, and his urban community provides plenty of inspiration for his artwork. Unfortunately, his abstract attempts to capture the "ring-a-ling" of the ice-cream truck's bell, the hard work of a bird building her nest, and the warmth of the sun on his face only confuse his classmates, parents, and teacher, who seem stuck on the concrete objects missing from his drawings. Then a new girl named Iris moves in next door, and when she recognizes her own feelings of sadness in one of his drawings, Niko knows he's found a kindred spirit. Shin's digital and mixed-media illustrations perfectly capture Niko's passion and creativity, visually connecting his drawing pad to the world around him through joyous, scribbled colored pencil lines. Niko's drawings are appropriately naive, employing geometric shapes and bright colors that are echoed in Shin's visuals. Raczka's child-centered text expertly uses accessible language to describe the process of creative expression, likening it to a butterfly fluttering and a window opening in the mind. Pink-skinned Niko appears to come from a biracial family, and his classmates are depicted with a realistically diverse array of skin tones.
VERDICT Niko's journey will resonate with budding artists and inspire young audiences of all abilities to create something meaningful. A must-have.

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