Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, Illustrations by Simone Shin
Niko is an abstract expressionist, although he doesn't know it, nor does anyone around him. Showing his parents a drawing composed of yellow striations and red swirls and knots, he explains, "It's the warm of the sun on my face." When Dad says he can't see the sun or the face, Niko responds, "It's not my face. It's the warm." So it goes at school, too: everyone wants to know why Niko's artwork doesn't show what they see: the world in concretely visual terms. Niko's sadness and sense of being misunderstood lifts when he meets his new neighbor, Iris: her thoughtful, elated expressions as she takes in his creations make for some of Shin's (If I Could Drive, Mama) loveliest scenes in this touching story. "Niko waited for her questions," writes Raczka (Wet Cement), but Iris doesn't need Niko to explain anything. Her own feelings of dislocation and, more importantly, her self-awareness about them, make her both a soul mate and the ideal audience. What more could an artist ask for?
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