cover image On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei’s Art Is Changing the Tide

On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei’s Art Is Changing the Tide

Joanna Ho, illus. by Catia Chien. Orchard, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-338-71594-1

Lyrical free verse from Ho (Eyes That Kiss in the Corners) tells the story of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (b. 1957), who knew what it was to live “on the tip of a wave,/ far from home/ and always in danger” following a young life in a Chinese labor camp where “childhood/ blew past/ him like sand.” At the story’s center is the artist’s 2016 public installation, Safe Passage, which over one night draped the pillars of Berlin’s Konzerthaus with thousands of orange life jackets “salvaged from a neon mountain/ on an island/ in the Aegean Sea.” The next day, at a star-studded film event, “on-lookers and/ gala-goers gawked” while the jackets “remembered/ the wave riders/ the world seemed to forget.” In digitally finished pencil and pastel spreads, Chien (All the Beating Hearts) picks out in Day-Glo orange key elements of the artist’s monumental installations—“Nine thousand backpacks... Too many toy bricks to count”—placing them against sweeping blue backgrounds that frequently emphasize people displaced “by currents/ they could not control.” The creators treat with sophistication themes of political marginalization, creative risk-taking, and the power of art to shift sentiment. A concluding biography and photographs offer context. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)