Monday, November 16, 2015
by Diane C. Mullen
288 pages; ages 12 - 16
"I'm getting my tag up. all over my Minneapolis hood." Everyone notices the St. B, Liam thinks ~ even the empty walls wait to see what he has to say.
Fourteen-year-old Liam is, as he puts it, a kid who lets his Sharpie do the talking: on concrete benches, on the sides of dumpsters, on the plexiglass cases in the rail station. Liam feels most comfortable when he's tagging. Graffiti art is how he expresses himself and he dreams of painting something big, that will take up an entire wall.
But it's been a rough year. He's been kicked out of the private school (where he had a scholarship) and was threatened with a gun for painting graffiti over another gang's sign. Worried that he might turn out like his older brother, Liam's mom sends him to a small town in Michigan to live with her friend who is an art teacher and sculptor.
Liam loves the opportunity to do art, but he is unimpressed by the quiet small-town life. When he sprays his tag around Lakeshore, people are upset and Liam needs to make amends. He wants to be remembered as an artist - not some punk picked up by the police.
What I like about this book are the short chapters, written mostly in dialogue. It's written in prose but has the feel of a novel in verse. I also like that Mullen explores graffiti as an artistic form, and includes asides about Picasso and Basquiat (who I'd never heard of before reading this novel).
This is a great book for any kid who loves art, and maybe for art teachers as well. Review copy from the publisher.