cover image World More Beautiful: The Life and Art of Barbara Cooney

World More Beautiful: The Life and Art of Barbara Cooney

Angela Burke Kunkel, illus. by Becca Stadtlander. Random House Studio, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-48438-8

Quiet gouache spreads with an appropriately folk-art feel give a sense of meditative calm to this picture book biography of two-time Caldecott Medalist Barbara Cooney (1917–2000). Burke Kunkel (Make Way) describes how Cooney’s love of art bloomed early, fostered by a mother who was herself an artist, and that her childhood summers consisted of leaving “the city for the sea.... Summer is Maine.” After she attends art school, publishers demand that Cooney work only in black-and-white scratchboard art—until the beauty of a rooster in her family’s farmyard inspires her to produce a story, “in five simple colors,” that turns out to be a success. Travel fills the next years, captured by Stadtlander (What Music!) in dramatic landscapes that include France, Greece, and Mexico. As Cooney ages, her focus turns to a final project: a new library for the Maine town where she lives. “Books close, then open again.// We do not always know the next story,” concludes musing text as an adult and a child share a book at bedtime, which Cooney fans will recognize as Miss Rumphius. The contemplative portrait captures an artist who reveled in Earth’s brilliance and who kept her promise, per an afterword, “to make the world more beautiful.” Background characters are portrayed with various skin tones. An author’s note and selected bibliography conclude. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Anne Moore Armstrong, Bright Agency. (Aug.)