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. Corita is White; some classroom and community scenes include characters of color. Detailed backmatter fleshes out Corita’s life and accomplishments.

Leave a Comment