Cover image for The boy who loved to draw : Benjamin West
The boy who loved to draw : Benjamin West
Brenner, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Physical Description:
42 unnumbered pages ; 19 x 27 cm
Recounts the life story of the Pennsylvania artist who began drawing as a boy and eventually became well known on both sides of the Atlantic.
Reading Level:
400 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.4 0.5 34644.

Reading Counts RC K-2 4.1 2 Quiz: 19121 Guided reading level: O.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND237.W45 B74 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ND237.W45 B74 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ND237.W45 B74 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
ND237.W45 B74 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography

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When Benjamin West was seven years old, the only thing in the world he wanted to do was draw pictures. For a time, that got him into a peck of trouble. Papa wasn't pleased when Benjamin "borrowed" his best quill pen. Mama wasn't happy that Benjamin would rather sketch the cows than milk them. And Grimalkin, the family cat, was not keen on being the source for paintbrush hairs! Truth was, there was nothing Benjamin cared more about than art, and that led him to some surprising adventures. Here, in lively easy-to-read words and vivid pictures, is the engaging true story of Benjamin West, the farmboy from colonial Pennsylvania who grew up to become the first world-famous American artist and a friend to Benjamin Franklin and the king of England.

Author Notes

Barbara Brenner was born on June 26, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York. Brenner attended Seton Hall College and Rutgers University from 1942-46, while also working as a copy editor at Prudential Insurance Company. Her freelance work as an artist's agent prepared her for a literary life. In 1957 she published her first book, Somebody's Slippers, Somebody's Shoes. She followed this book with an educational picture book entitled Barto Takes the Subway, designed to improve reading comprehension and sight vocabulary.

Her artistic development continued when she began to collaborate with her husband, illustrator Fred Brenner, on The Flying Patchwork Quilt. Her next book, On the Frontier with Mr. Audubon, was selected by School Library Journal as The Best of the Best among children's books published over 26 seasons. One of her bestselling titles was Wagon Wheels (published in 1978), which deals with the trials and tribulations of a close-knit African American family. In 1986, Brenner was honored with the Pennsylvania School Librarians' Association's Outstanding Pennsylvania Author Award. Brenner's most celebrated book is a collection entitled Voices: Poetry and Art from around the World, for which she was chief editor. This book received an ALA Notable Book for Children mention and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 6^-8. Based on the autobiographical writings of colonial artist Benjamin West, this story introduces young Benjamin, who began drawing at the age of seven, using a forbidden tool: his papa's goose quill pen. Scolded for that offense, but praised for the excellent likeness of his baby niece, Benjamin continues to make pictures. Friendly Indians show him how to make paint, his cat unwillingly contributes fur for brushes, and his parents send him, at the age of nine, to learn from an artist in Philadelphia. Each page of West's story faces a painting with simplified forms, subdued colors, and pleasing composition. Naive in style and reminiscent of some colonial art, the illustrations present clear visual expressions of the activities and emotions related in the story. The last pages include a summary of West's adult life, small reproductions of three of his paintings, suggestions for where to see his work, and brief source notes for this book. A fascinating look at art in colonial times, and a likable portrait of the artist as a young boy. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

This innovative picture book/chapter book hybrid vividly brings to life the childhood of noted American painter Benjamin West (1738-1820). The youngest of 10 children in a Quaker family, Benjamin becomes inspired at the age of seven and draws pictures every chance he gets. When quill and paper aren't enough, a Native American friend shows young Benjamin how to mix clay and bear grease into paint colors, and Benjamin learns-by trial and error, using hair from his pet cat-how to make simple paintbrushes. Brenner (If You Were There in 1776) distills West's formative years into a lively narrative. She makes Benjamin easy to like, giving equal emphasis to his singular passion for art and to the qualities he has in common with readers (e.g., a knack for getting into trouble, then fearing the consequences). Dunrea's (The Painter Who Loved Chickens) gouache compositions capture the sparse simplicity of colonial-era Pennsylvania. Pared-down, favoring the grays and muted colors associated with traditional Quaker furnishings, these pictures pay their respects to the art of the period but retain warmth and a childlike puckishness; the horizontal format, approximately 10" x 7", accentuates Dunrea's painterly style. An author's note chronicling West's career and featuring reproductions of several works is included. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 3-This simply told picture-book biography introduces the story of Benjamin West, who is often referred to as the father of American art. Born in 1738, the 10th child of the Pennsylvania Wests, he began drawing at a very young age. He learned about color from local Indians, and he learned about "hair pencils" (paintbrushes) from a traveler. Since he couldn't obtain any of his own, he made them with hairs from the family cat, Grimalkin. Realizing their son's potential, Benjamin's parents sent him to Philadelphia to study with a real artist. The trip changed his life. Dunrea's folk-style gouache paintings incorporate period architecture, furnishings, and handicrafts. The pictures are framed with thin black lines, giving the book a formal appearance. This is a fine introduction to artists and the Colonial period.-Kathleen Staerkel, Indian Trails Public Library District, Wheeling, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.