Leo Politi: Artist of the Angels by Ann Stalcup
Published by Four Winds Press
Hardcover: 104 pages
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Leo Politi was a true innovator in children’s books. Rather than setting his stories in a generic landscapethe city, the town, or the farmmany of Leo's books detail individual cultures. His most famous book, "The Song of the Swallows," combines his love of Latino life with a reverence for nature. A Caldecott Medal winner, "The Song of the Swallows" tells of the clouds of birds that return each year to a small church courtyard in San Juan Capistrano, California.
All told, Leo wrote and illustrated over twenty books during the course of five decades. In "Leo Politi: Artist of the Angels," Ann Stalcup, fan and friend of Leo’s for twenty years, chronicles the life and career of a man who lived to create art. Over fifty of Leo’s piecesfrom massive mural to delicate sketchenhance the story of his long and fruitful life.
Praise for "Leo Politi: Artist of the Angels"
School Library Journal -- "Enthusiasm for Politi's wonderful body of work will hopefully be renewed by this engaging biography. The author succinctly summarizes the artist's early life, paying particular attention to those influences that would later be reflected in his art and writing. The account of young Leo's devotion to his Indian chief's suit resonates with humor and foreshadows the imagination and pageantry in his later work. Budding artists will be especially drawn to Politi's single-minded pursuit of his vocation. The artist's paintings and drawings are spread liberally throughout the book to illustrate different phases of his creative development. Quotes from interviews with people who were close to him also bring his passions and interests to life. Long before multiculturalism was fashionable, Politi blazed a trail by portraying the vibrant ethnic communities of Los Angeles in his many children's books. Additionally, his devotion to architecture and historical preservation is reflected by several titles aimed at both children and adults."
Kirkus Reviews -- "Stalcup bases her biography, the first ever, of Politi, largely on interviews and personal memories-and rather than shape it as a conventional tally of travels and awards, she focuses on this Caldecott-winner's character, artistic development, and favorite themes. Born in Fresno, Politi grew up in California and Italy. He returned to the former as an adult on a voyage through the Panama Canal and up the west coast that crystallized his interest in Latino culture. He settled in the Los Angeles area, wherehe became an inveterate observer of Olvera Street and other ethnic neighborhoods.
Adding a generous mix of paintings, sketches, and spot art, some of it previously unpublished, the author trails along, pointing out, for instance, how the caricatures in his first children's book, Little Pancho (1938), became real figures, drawn from life, in later titles, and how innovative it was then to depict ethnically specific children in particular, rather than generic, neighborhoods. Closing with a timeline and an annotated bibliography, this perceptive portrait should go far toward rekindling interest in an artist and writer whose reputation, outside his customary haunts at least, has faded considerably." --- Kirkus Reviews
Author/Illustrator ELISA KLEVEN -- "Ann Stalcup's loving and scholarly tribute to Leo Politi is superbly researched, filled with personal anecdotes, little known photographs, and wonderful reproductions of Politi's vast body of work. The book explores the brilliant book creator's life and artistry.
As a child growing up in Los Angeles, Politi's books brought wonder, joy and a respect for my city --and other places as well -- to my childhood. I remember pouring through the illustrations for hours, and wondering about the artist behind the beautiful pictures and gentle stories, the dramatic compositions and exquisite, singing colors. Stalcup's book has helped provide an answer. Like his art, Politi the man was playful and kind, quirky and intelligent, and he endowed everything he created with a soul. His books are a true gift to children."
SANDY SHUCKETT - California School Library Association -- "Ann does an absolutely magnificent job weaving many, many facts into a sensitive and heartwarming story that exactly portrays the essence of Leo and his work which was so far ahead of its time. I think ... Leo would have loved this book. It is the best legacy to his life and works that I have ever read, and all of the detailed "back matter" just makes it better! Thank you, Ann, for spending the time and energy on research and writing to make this happen!"
Comments from Teachers and Librarians:
Wilmore Elementary School:
- "We had a wonderful day with you and even this morning as I have walked around the campus the children are still talking about your visit. A couple of teachers have told me stories about activities they have done in their classes because of your message to them and the results are GREAT!!! It is wonderful that people like you are willing to come out to talk to, and inspire, children. With so much testing and teaching to the test, some of the fun things of school are getting lost. Yesterday the fun was put back into school thanks to you."
Phoenix Learning Center
"We all enjoyed your visit and learned so much on so many levels. It was exciting to learn about both you and Leo Politi as authors and people. It was also interesting to learn more about the cultures of Downtown Los Angeles, right here in our own backyard! I was delighted that so many students thanked you for your presentation."
San Juan Capistrano Mission School:
- "When you visited our school, we were very thankful that you showed us how you came to write your stories. We found it remarkable how Leo Politi took bits and pieces from his observations and turned them into incredible stories. We liked learning about someone who enjoyed the Mission as much as we do." --8th Grade Teacher
- "Thank you for your inspiring speech about Leo Politi and your career as an author." --7th Grade Teacher
- "Thank you for sharing the wonderful life of Leo Politi. We enjoyed learning about the places that inspired his beautiful work." -- Kindergarten Teachers
Comments from Students:
Minnie Gant School, Long Beach:
- "What I liked best about your book was that you inspired me to write." ---Erin
- "You were so easy to watch, you kept me so interested, and your own writing skills are sensational. You make every work memorable. You kept the whole audience ready to learn more and more. I don’t think I have ever been more informed in a single presentation in my life. It was truly remarkable." -- Carly
- "The great writing tips were extraordinary . . . If I use all the tips, it would be a perfect story." -- Gregory
- "The descriptive tips you gave you were very helpful. . . I will use them to upgrade my stories." -- Hudson
- "Your knowledge of Leo, your overall presentation was superb. You and your husband did a fabulous job working together to do your presentation. It is fantastic that you got to meet Leo’s relatives, friends, principals, and teacher to find our information that no one had heard before." -- Ali
- "You were better than a blooming flower in the days of spring. Your presentation was as great as the 4th of July. You spoke loud and clear like the water in the Caribbean. You had awesome stance you looked straight at the audience." -- Kim
- "Reading does help with writing; your writing tips were amazing advice." -- Sarah
- "The one piece of advice I remember most was “Write what you know.” I think that advice was very clever." -- Brynn
- "I could feel your passion for Leo and how much you cared about him. I thought it was cool that you made a goal and went through with it." -- Izak
- " will use your writing tips to made my writing better. Thank you for an awesome assembly!" -- Josephine
Canyon Charter School, Santa Monica:
- "Thank you for talking to us about writing a book. I am really inspired. I loved learning about Leo Politi. He was a very interesting man." -- Elaine
- "Thank you for teaching us about Leo Politi and his life. I really liked how you expressed your friendship with Leo Politi when you talked to us. I learned about the writing process and how you’re supposed to catch the reader’s attention in your first sentence. It is really cool!" -- Isadora
-"I thought that Leo was very talented and you did a good job telling us about him." -- Holland
- "I have recently finished a play I was writing. You have just inspired me." -- Caitlin
- "I learned a lot about Leo Politi and a lot about you. I learned that he loved kids and started drawing at a young age." --Rachel
- "I learned that Leo know he wanted to be an artist for his whole life." -- Lena
Marengo School, South Pasadena:
- "You are a brilliant author. Your stories are very historical. I learned that Los Angeles existed over 200 years. Leo Politi was an illustrator first and then he started to write stories. My favorite part of the talk was the illustrations." --Laura
- "My class appreciated you so much. Thank you for your presentation. I’d like to be an artist some day like you wanted to be. I enjoyed the book and the slide show. Love, your little artist friend," -- Veronica