Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington Reviews

‘This beautifully illustrated book is about the life of real surrealist Leonora Carrington. Markel explains how Leonora grew up in a wealthy English home with parents who wanted her to be like all the other well-bred English girls. However, she had her own ideas. Luckily, her family decided to support her ideas and sent her to school. This is where Leonora was introduced to the world of surrealist art. The illustrations show us a glimpse of the world Leonora lived in and shows how she saw the world and what she wanted to make of it for herself. The engaging narrative demonstrates the struggles she went through and the happiness she found in doing the thing she loved. Readers will likely learn not only about Leonora Carrington but will also see beautiful examples of surrealist art as they flip through the pages of Leonora’s life.’

— Crimson Review of Children’s & YA Literature/ Katy Sund — Link


“Out of This World is the powerful, stunningly told story of Leonora Carrington, a girl who made art out of her imagination and created some of the most enigmatic and startling works of the last eighty years.”

A Mighty Girl’s: 2019 Books of the Year — Link


‘Markel and Hall paired previously on a picture book biography of Henri Rousseau that I adored The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, so I was predisposed to like this one. It most certainly doesn’t disappoint. First off, I didn’t even know there was a female surrealist painter. After reading this book I immediately set off to find out more about her. Second, Markel plays fair with the text and Hall does a marvelous job of invoking Carrington’s art without copying it, which is a difficult trick. It’d call this one a stellar bio of a little known name.’

— Lists: December 2019 Nonfiction Picture Books & Lists: 2019 Unique Biographies/ School Library Journal/ Elizabeth Bird — Link


​‘From the first sentence of OUT OF THIS WORLD: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington (Balzer + Bray, 40pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Amanda Hall, readers know that the artist is a rebel. “Leonora’s parents wanted her to be like every other well-bred English girl,” Markel writes. “But she was not.” Boarding schools and debutante balls could not quash Leonora’s artist spirit, and she heads off to art school, then off to Paris and into the orbit of the Surrealists. But it isn’t until she flees to Mexico ahead of the Nazis that Leonora discovers her true artistic voice. Wisely, Hall chooses not to recreate Carrington’s art (which can be brooding and sexually suggestive). Instead, she creates bright, busy spreads filled with enchantment. Hyenas sport wild, black manes (much like Leonora’s own hair). Tortoises peek from pockets. Green potions bubble.

Markel’s telling – evocative and poetic – feels enchanted, too, even if she does occasionally overstate for effect: “Leonora and the other female Surrealists … had no interest in painting women who looked like pretty decorations, as men had done for centuries.” One could argue that artists from Rembrandt to Goya to Millet depicted women as they lived and worked, not just as ornaments. But the author’s point is understood. Carrington’s depiction of women is singular. And Markel’s gorgeous description of Carrington’s paintings is the perfect summation of the extraordinariness found in all females: In them, “women have special gifts; they can do things beyond anybody’s wildest dreams – which is marvellous, and it’s powerful, and it’s true.”

— New York Times/ Candace Fleming — Link


‘A glorious look at a woman artist who did exactly what she wanted to do at a time when few were able to do so.’

—The Horn Book


‘For the burgeoning artists in your life, The New York Times Book Review recommends a picture book biography of the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington called “Out of this World,” written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Amanda Hall. Hall created “bright, busy spreads filled with enchantment,” to show Carrington’s artistic spirit. ‘

— New York Times article: I Love Throwing My Kids’ Artwork in the Garbage While They’re Sleeping/ Jessica Grose Link


‘This striking picture book biography focuses on surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and her influences. Inspired by her grandmother’s stories, which took her “to worlds that shimmered beyond this one,” Carrington’s sensibilities eventually made her simpatico with the French surrealists. When Germany invaded Western Europe, she fled to Mexico, where she continued to develop her fantastical style, rejecting confining gender expectations in the process: “Her women did things they didn’t do in paintings made by men. Instead of lying on a couch, they were listening to the stars…. They were friends with monkeys, Minotaurs, and mythic birds.” Rather than recreating Carrington’s artwork, Hall complements the artist’s imagery through her own strange and radiant mixed-media spreads. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)’

 Publishers Weekly * Starred Review Link


‘A gorgeously illustrated picture book biography about the fascinating life of surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, from Michelle Markel and Amanda Hall, the acclaimed team behind The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau…Out of This World is the powerful, stunningly told story of Leonora Carrington, a girl who made art out of her imagination and created some of the most enigmatic and startling works of the last eighty years.’

— Amazon/ one of Amazon’s Best Nonfiction Books for January 2019


‘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)’

— Kirkus