Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas (Hardcover)
Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring and stunningly illustrated picture book biography of American artist Alma Thomas.
Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.
As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel.
In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with color.
Ablaze with Color includes extensive backmatter with photos, an author’s and illustrator’s note, a timeline, and a list of sources and resources, which will be a great tool for parents, educators, and librarians. Perfect for Women’s History Month and Black History Month units alongside such favorites as Malala's Magic Pencil, Hidden Figures, and Mae Among the Stars.
About the Author
Jeanne Walker Harvey has been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.
Loveis Wise is an illustrator and designer from Washington, DC. They are currently based in Los Angeles and their work often speaks to themes of joy and liberation. Their work can be found through the New Yorker, Google, Adobe, and the New York Times. You can find them online at www.loveiswise.com.
This charming biography’s title describes not only Alma Thomas' signature paintings but the book’s radiant artwork, which emphasizes how the colors of the natural world inspired her unusual, iconic works. Neatly encapsulating a long life that saw social and personal upheaval, as well as gorgeously showcasing the art produced along the way and the natural world that inspired it, this title is a must for art and biography shelves. — Booklist (starred review)
In clear language and straightforward presentation, the author (Maya Lin) focuses on Thomas’s family’s intellectual ambitions and support of her aspirations, her love of nature and education, and her determination and persistence in the face of societal obstacles. Wise celebrates Thomas’s work with saturated, page-filling, vibrant color; the rich, flat, atmospheric compositions fit Thomas’s tessellated style and high-key colors. An inspiring introduction for artists and appreciators, as individuals or shared in groups. — School Library Journal (starred review)
This superb picture-book biography profiles Alma Thomas (1891–1978), the first Black woman to have art displayed in the White House’s permanent collection. Harvey’s (Maya Lin, rev. 7/17) poetic text is imagistic and deftly paced; Wise’s (The People Remember, rev. 11/21) digital artwork is boldly, fittingly colorful. — Horn Book (starred review)
The text achieves a fine balance of evocative lyricism and straightforward exposition. Wise’s vibrant, eye-catching illustrations contain echoes of Thomas’ signature abstract style, with its colorful mosaic-like patterns and tessellated brush strokes. Uplifting with hope and ablaze with joyous colors! — Kirkus Reviews
That “Alma did not live to see the momentous day—when the first Black president and First Lady chose Alma’s painting as the first artwork by a Black woman to be displayed in the White House” closes her story with a single bittersweet episode in a tour de force career. Wise’s digital art pops with color and features slightly abstracted figures, mirroring but never mimicking Thomas’ visual explosion of hues. — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books