To Be an Artist

To Be an Artist

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By: Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko

Children around the world express themselves through art, be it music, dance, visual arts, or theater. Beautiful photographs and lyrical text highlight the many ways art can bring us together.

A portion of the proceeds help support community-based projects benefiting children around the world.

Look Inside the Book:

Author Bios:

Maya Ajmera, author

Maya Ajmera is the creator and spokesperson for Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the World and co-author of the global education guide, Raising Children to Become Caring Contributors to the World. Maya is the founder and executive director of SHAKTI for Children. In the January 1999 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Maya was named among "A new guard of non-profit leaders...that will shape the charity world in the next century."

Read more about Maya

John D. Ivanko, author

John D. Ivanko is an award-winning photographer and author, writer, national speaker, and conservationist who has done a fair bit of globetrotting. In 1992 John jumped off the corporate treadmill at an advertising agency to journey around the world on what has become known as his "quest for understanding." One year and 29 countries later, he returned to the United States with over 15,000 photographic images and stirring accounts of his journey. He never set foot in a cubicle again.

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Awards & Honors:

  • Book Sense Children's Picks List
  • Early Childhood NEWS Directors' Choice Award
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • CCBC Choices

Editorial Reviews:

Publishers Weekly

To Be an Artist by Maya Ajmera and John Ivanko explores what it can mean to be an artist and the ways that children around the globe express themselves through art, including drawing, making music, dancing and acting. Photos of children from dozens of nations accompany the motivational text, which addresses readers directly: "Dressing up, making sandcastles, taking a photograph… these are all ways you can show your creativity."


How do we define art? This photographic introduction explains, "Art can be just about anything." The vibrant snapshots show young artists from a wide variety of countries expressing themselves in universal ways: drawing, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, writing, acting, sculpture, and making crafts. The narrative introduces the various activities, but the photographs tell the greater story. The double-page spread on drumming, for instance, shows five young drummers from Indonesia, Mauritania, the U.S., India, and Jamaica. The pictures are clear, and few of the children appear posed. This engaging global view of young artists is an excellent supplement for social studies units and an inspiring springboard for arts programs. An appended map shows the location of the countries.

School Library Journal

Like the authors' Back to School (2001) and To Be a Kid (1999, both Charlesbridge), this title is part of the SHAKTI for Children project, a nonprofit group dedicated to "teaching children to value diversity and to grow into productive, caring citizens of the world." Eye-catching spreads feature vivid photographs of youngsters from many different countries engaged in a variety of art forms, including dancing, singing, writing, and painting. The bold text introduces each discipline and is supported with more extensive descriptions of the individual endeavors and the nature of artistic expression in general. Bright, colorful backgrounds highlight the assortment of photos, and the open layout helps to pull the information together. This vibrant book pulsates with the energy and sense of accomplishment that accompanies participation in the arts. Within its pages, readers will find the inspiration to create, as well as the stimulation that comes from seeing reflections of the lives and creative works of other youngsters.

Book Sense Children's Picks

In these active, bright photos from around the world, we see chidren engaged intheart of dance, painting, acting, music, and writing. While celebrating the arts, we celebrate the diversity and wonder of the world's children.

-- Diane Betz, Butterfly Books, De Pere, WI

School Library Journal's Curriculum Connections

Colorfully framed, lively photos depict children of all ages from around the world painting, playing instruments, singing, writing, dancing, and acting while a simply written text explores the inherent satisfaction of creative endeavors.

CCBC Choices 2005

Photographs of children from all over the world engaged in a wide range of artistic endeavors work in conjunction with a multilayered text to explore many ways of being an artist. the large, boldface type on each page spread offers a broad statement about one way of being an artist ("To be an artist means making music--playing drums of all shapes and sizes...or blowing on horns and flutes..."). Text in a smaller font on each page expands on that type of art, offering more information on music, dancing, drawing, painting, theater, and more. The photographs serve to underscore the many variations for each type of artistry: drums look different from one nation to another, for example, as do traditional dances. But they also emphasize the joy that art in its many forms brings to children regardless of where they live, as well as the need to express human creativity shared by all cultures. While it would have been helpful to label the locales in each photograph by more than just country name (so as not to imply there is no variation within each nation), the lack of greater specificity is a small oversight. (Ages 4-8)

Library Media Connection

The bright colors and photographs in this book make it very appealing. It defines art and shows different ways in which individuals express their artisitic ability. It also shows children from all over the world using their creative talents in many unique and special ways. The pictures show a young boy painting eggs in the Ukraine, young girls dancing in Cuba, and a young boy sewing in the United States. The overall theme of this book is one of celebration. It is the celebration of being able to express feelings and our thoughts through art. By using art to communicate, people are able to speak the same language in many different ways. Both the text and the pictures support this theme. The use of many different cultures shows readers that despite outward differences, we are still very much alike in our desire to share who we are and how we see the outside world with others. The colorful photographs of children from all around the world, and the map at the end of the book combine to make it a lesson in geography also. It is a celebration of who we are, and how easy it is to share with others the art we create in many different forms. (Recommended).


Download the Cover


ISBN: 978-1-57091-503-1

ISBN: 978-1-57091-576-5

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 32

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