Deeply influenced by her religious beliefs and fired up by the social justice causes of her day, artist, designer, and educator Corita Kent was a nun like no other!
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books of 2021
A 2021 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book for Children's Nonfiction
Stars from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and more!
Corita Kent (1918–1986) lived a remarkable life as an artist, educator, nun, and activist. Unapologetically holding true to herself and her beliefs, Corita spread a powerful message of love, hope, and justice with her work, as it evolved from figurative and religious art, to serigraphs incorporating the sacred and the ordinary, to a sparser, more introspective style.
This timely story will draw readers into the life of a singular woman whose work and commitment invite us all to seek joy in the everyday, to observe the world with open eyes, and to question and see beyond the existing frameworks of society.
Thoughtfully written by Matthew Burgess and vibrantly illustrated by Kara Kramer, this beautiful biography, made in close collaboration with the Corita Art Center, includes reproductions of Corita’s works, a chronology, and author and illustrator notes.
Starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and more!
★ “Celebrate the life of artist, nun, and activist Corita Kent. When Frances Elizabeth Kent first receives art lessons as a sixth grader, she becomes, in Burgess’ poetic telling, 'a bird in the breeze of her brush'; the phrase is repeated with powerful effect in the final spread of this compelling picture-book biography. As an adult, Frances joins the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, becoming Sister Mary Corita. The book chronicles her years of teaching, during which she coins the portmanteau plork when 'play and work are one'; her training in silk-screening; and her transformation of the art department of Immaculate Heart College into a 'lively center of art and design.' With art that encourages seeing 'the sacred in the everyday' and her passion for speaking out against social injustices and war, Corita makes waves and angers the archbishop. After release from her vows, she moves to Boston to continue to make art. The text shines with a deeply felt reverence for Corita’s work and makes explicit her influence as a teacher, artist, and activist. Design choices, including a double gatefold in the book’s center and a surprise cover beneath the dust jacket, emphasize Corita’s inspired mission. The lively, brightly colored illustrations feature occasional photo collage elements and incorporate a vivid blue bird as a symbol of Corita and her artistic spirit. Detailed backmatter fleshes out Corita’s life and accomplishments. Delightful. Plork!” —STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus
★ “Pop icon Corita Kent stars in this gorgeous picture book and if you’ve never heard of her, after reading it, you’ll immediately head to the Corita Art Center’s website to see more of her work. Burgess and Kramer work together seamlessly to tell us about Kent’s childhood, her inspirations, her religious vocation, her place in the Pop Art movement, and her activism. This is a complex story, but Burgess’s text, related with a clean, typewriter font, gives the perfect amount of information. I loved the focus on small moments and their influence on her art. Big questions that might concern adults (why did she become a nun? What is a nun, anyway? Why did she leave the Church?) are introduced with matter-of-fact language and left at that. Kramer has succeeded where so many other art biography illustrators fail; her work perfectly captures the playfulness, vibrancy, and deepness of Kent’s work but does not compete with it. The book is quite large, and Kramer takes advantage of that to create a giant double-hinged picture of Corita’s students using cardboard finders to re-envision ordinary objects. The pages swing open to reveal students peering at grocery shelves, including the famous Del Monte tomato cans that figure in the book’s title.” —STARRED REVIEW, Susan Harari (Boston Latin School) for Youth Services Book Review
★ “Burgess’s captivating picture book biography of Sister Corita Kent (1918–1986) tells the story of a person and an artist always in a state of becoming: ‘Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.’ From her working-class California childhood to her vocation as a nun, her introduction to screen printing through María Sodi de Ramos Martínez, and her interest in marketing messaging and material culture, Burgess shows how Kent’s art grew out of her life and time: ‘For Corita, art and activism and protest and celebration were connected.’ Throughout, Kramer’s illustration style shifts, subtly mirroring Kent’s evolution as an artist by layering in signature motifs from her art—block-print letters, collage-like composition, screen print textures, and bright color—that reveal Kent’s awareness of the world around her. It’s a thoughtfully rendered introduction to an endlessly inspiring artist. Back matter includes a timeline and creators’ notes.” —STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly
★ “Sister Corita Kent gained international renown for her bold, pop-art silkscreen prints, and this captivating picture-book biography traces both her life and the development of her distinctive style. After showing promise as a young artist, Kent surprised everyone by becoming a nun, but it was as a teacher with her order that she not only learned her signature method but learned the importance of play and exploration, which became fundamental to both her teaching and her art. Kramer’s illustrations do an excellent job of evoking Kent’s style, with bright colors, blocky shapes, and text included in just about every spread, which incorporate some of Kent’s classroom rules, like ‘consider everything an experiment.’ Burgess’ text tidily links Kent’s art to her work as a teacher, her religious beliefs, her powerful sense of justice, and her unguarded way of noticing beauty in the everyday, and the result is an affectionate, approachable portrait of an important artist (bolstered by helpful back matter with additional context about Kent). There aren’t many books about Kent for a young audience, but her art—and approach to making it—is uncommonly kid-friendly, and this joyful volume will not only introduce her to children but encourage creative exploration and play.” —STARRED REVIEW, Booklist
“In the forthcoming picture book Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Corita Kent, Matthew Burgess tells the story of a Roman Catholic nun who, if not well-known today, was sufficiently famous in 1967 to make the cover of Newsweek. Kara Kramer’s buoyant illustrations evoke scenes from the life of the girl born Frances Elizabeth Kent in 1918. We see her artistic awakening in sixth grade, her entry into religious life, and the development of her talents as a teacher and maker of graphic Pop Art images… In such works, Mr. Burgess writes, ‘Corita invited others to see the sacred in the everyday.’ The book treads lightly over the churning politics of the time, so 6- to 11-year-olds may be a little mystified as to why Sister Corita felt the displeasure of her archbishop or why, in the end, she left religious life. What they will get, however, is a sense of wonderful expansiveness from this large book that radiates electric colors.” —Wall Street Journal
“The idea that art is for everyone is at the heart of this picture book biography about pop artist, activist, teacher, and nun Sister Mary Corita Kent. Born Frances Elizabeth Kent in Hollywood, CA, in 1918, she was inspired by a nun who gave her art lessons in sixth grade, and by her father who encouraged her to create original art. After taking her vows, Kent divided her time between teaching art to school children and training young nuns to be teachers. She studied art history, learned printmaking, and specialized in silkscreen printing, or serigraphy. Kent invented the word plork, a combination of the words play and work to describe her approach to creating art. She used her artwork to speak out about injustice, poverty, and war… Back matter includes a chronology and notes by the author and illustrator. The vibrant artwork supports the text and incorporates quotes by Kent as it takes inspiration from her style. An invitation to create and explore self-expression all wrapped up in the celebration of an artist kids aren’t likely to have encountered yet; a highly recommended purchase for biography collections.” —School Library Journal
“Burgess’s loving picture-book biography Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Corita Kent, created in collaboration with the Corita Art Center, [is] illustrated by artist Kara Kramer with patterned, textured, sensitive vibrancy consonant with Corita’s art spirit and sensibility. Emerging from these tender pages is an activist who devoted her life to fighting with fierce gentleness and generosity of soul for justice and peace in every form; a rebel who subverted commerce for creativity, turning a corporate slogan (for Del Monte tomato sauce) into a clarion call for the the power of art to constellate the ordinary with wonder (which lent the book its title); a visionary who subverted the outdated dogmas of the very institution she served to effect landmark reform within the Catholic Church and to engage the secular world with the creative life of the soul; a teacher who helped her students overcome the self-consciousness and overthinking that stifle creativity by fusing play and work through her quirkily titled, ingeniously deployed process of PLORKing; an artist who became a patron saint of noticing, of paying closer attention to the world as the only means of loving it more fully... We leaf through the decades of her extraordinary life as she presses against the status quo in every guise with the gentle paint-stained hand of art and love.” —Maria Popova, The Marginalian (formerly known as Brain Pickings)
“While Kent may not be a household name, many of us have seen her work on the iconic [rainbow] postage stamp. This picture book embraces her unusual life, celebrating the decisions she made, the art she created and her voice for social change. The book cleverly pulls out elements of how Kent taught and created her art, offering unique perspectives gained by seeing the world in a fresh way. The writing here is engaging and offers a tone of delight as Kent continues to surprise and amaze. The bright and vibrant art in the book shares elements of Kent’s own work. Her play with lettering and words appear throughout the illustrations of the book, filling tree trunks, coloring margins, and as posters on the walls. The entire book is a delight of collage, typography and riotous color. A positive and affirming look at an artist who should be better known.” —Waking Brain Cells
- Orbis Pictus Recommended Book (kids' nonfiction)
- Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books