Out of This World

“Spectral fairies, soaring women, an infant in a luminous crescent-moon cradle, a human-faced hyena—these are a few of the wondrous images filling the pages of this colorful picture-book biography of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. Born in 1917 to wealthy parents in England, Carrington chafed against their attempt to turn her into a proper lady. Instead, she longed to set her wild imagination free and become an artist. Markel follows Carrington’s formative experience in France with Max Ernst and other surrealist artists, whose dreamlike art “gave her strange feelings, wondrous as fairy tales” and unlocked her own fanciful style. This is echoed in Hall’s mixed-media illustrations, which use rich, vibrant colors and curving lines to conjure Carrington’s passionate creativity. Her flight to Mexico to escape WWII is magnificently depicted on a two-page spread, aglow in orange and violet, where a winged boat packed with refugees sails from a city in flames; and it’s in Mexico that Carrington’s career truly takes off. The text and illustrations combine in a way that will help young readers understand surreal art and how Carrington used this style to break free of conventional opinions and depictions of women. Author’s and illustrator’s notes provide greater insight into Carrington’s life and art. Another fantastic collaboration by the creators of The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (2012).”

Booklist/ Julia Smith * Starred Review


“Artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) bucks pressure and tradition to join the surrealist movement. “Leonora’s parents wanted her to be like every other well-bred English girl. But she was not.” This white girl with Irish heritage doesn’t want to “become a lady.” As a child, she sketches make-believe planets; she’s expelled from boarding school after boarding school. In Italy, she sees Renaissance art in churches and galleries and forges ahead “to paint her own imagined worlds.” She joins the surrealists in London and then France, painting fantastical creatures and women who are not simply “pretty decorations.” When Nazi Germany invades France, Carrington escapes to Mexico (described, alas, as “exotic”), befriends artist Remedios Varo, and continues painting surrealist works about enchanted women, nature, mysticism, and the occult. Hall’s watercolor ink, gouache, and pencil-crayon illustrations feature mild surrealism, far less eerie than Carrington’s. Hall uses sinuous lines abundantly—doorways curve, tree trunks bend—and tints Carrington’s world with greens, golds, and oranges. A few full-bleed spreads are magnificent, including the flight from Nazi Europe, which combines a burning city and a winged creature-ship, and a depiction of Carrington’s late painting of a giantess, for which readers must turn the book sideways. A love affair with surrealist Max Ernst and an early marriage of convenience to escape Europe go unmentioned until the author’s note; Carrington’s mental illness isn’t mentioned anywhere. An empowering introduction that demands parallel examination of Carrington’s own work. (illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)”