It Jes’ Happened

By Kirkus Reviews

Tate and Christie capture the spirit behind the work of Bill Traylor, ‘one of the most important self-taught American folk artists of the twentieth century.’

Traylor went from slavery to sharecropping to raising his family in rural Alabama. In his early 80s, having outlived his family, he moved to Montgomery, sleeping on sidewalks and in doorways and alleys. In his loneliness, he dwelt upon ‘the saved-up memories of earlier times,’ and, with the sidewalk as his studio, began drawing. He drew cats, cups, snakes, birds and what he saw around him in Montgomery: the blacksmith’s shop, people walking dogs, men in tall hats and women in long dresses. Christie must feel himself a kindred spirit to Bill Traylor, his acrylic and gouache illustrations sharing Traylor’s palette of rich color, whimsical humor and sense of play with the human form. In his debut as a picture-book author, Tate crafts prose that is clear and specific, the lively text sometimes surrounded by playful figures cavorting off the pages as Traylor draws them. Though an author’s note is provided, an artist’s note would have been welcome.

An important picture-book biography that lovingly introduces this ‘outsider’ artist to a new generation.