Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts

by Alan B. Govenar


Published: July 2006 by Candlewick, ISBN: 0763620475
Details: Hardcover, Full-Color, 96 pages Hardcover, Full-Color, 96 pages



From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6 Up–The featured artists all live in the United States but come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The art forms they practice include singing with the Bejing Opera, boat building, wax-flower making, weaving, and performing at Mardi Gras. Govenar's interviews with them not only explore their art, but also their history. He includes interesting homey details that show the subjects' personalities and help readers connect with them as individuals. High-quality color and black-and-white photographs appear throughout. Some of the images are archival, while others show how these modern artists accomplish their crafts. The photographs, coupled with the engaging narrative, give readers the impression that they are actually visiting the homes and workshops of these artists. This extraordinarily handsome title is an outstanding addition to cultural-arts collections.
Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT

From Booklist
Govenar, who notes that he's always preferred the road less traveled, discovered riches on his journey across America--individuals who have dedicated their lives to uncommon art forms that preserve the traditions of their ancestors for all to enjoy. Five such people, each one a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, spoke with Govenar, whose biographical essays, filled with the artisans' commentary, explore how the subjects feel about their work and why and how they came to do it. The individuals, all older adults, have contributed photos from their family albums, often black-and-white shots, which Govenar has combined with color pictures of the artists at work--making elaborate Mardi Gras costumes, weaving rugs, building boats, creating Mexican coronas from folded paper, or singing Chinese opera in New York City. Although this attractively appointed collective biography won't have wide youth appeal, it will, nevertheless, give readers an appreciation of the intrinsic beauty, value, and diversity of American art and craft. Also suggest Susan Goldman Rubin's Art against the Odds (2004).
-Stephanie Zvirin