Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of a Football-Playing Artist, Ernie Barnes
Written and Illustrated by Don Tate
What a pleasure to get a prepublication look at this new book by Don Tate, award-winning and prolific author of books for kids.
It’s been said that “anyone can” when referring to some skills. Clearly, a little innate talent helps. Also, opportunity makes a huge difference. Ernest Barnes loved art and had a lot of artistic talent. However, growing up in The Bottom section of Durham, North Carolina didn’t give him a lot of opportunity to develop that talent. Most opportunities to shine in The Bottom involved sports. And Ernest was slow and not very coordinated. Being Black, he also didn’t have access to art exhibits in order to explore his love. He learned through art books. When a body-building coach introduced him to his muscles, he found that he could also love football and discus. And he still had time to paint. Ernest played professional football from 1960 to 1966. He used his experiences in his art. Ernest (or Ernie as one of the sports writers dubbed him) was one of the many hidden heroes of the civil rights movement. With the odds against him, he pursued his passions.
Tate does a fantastic job of showing young people how they can still pursue their dreams in spite of hurdles. His beautiful and realistic illustrations help tell Ernest’s story. His isolation from the other children. His joy when reading art books. His frustration at not being great at all sports. Author notes further explain the world in which Ernest lived. Many readers will want to learn more about Ernest. The extensive bibliography gives them great places to start. This is a story all young people should be familiar with. Pigskins to Paintbrushes will make a great addition to classrooms and bedrooms alike.
- Title: Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of a Football-Playing Artist, Ernie Barnes
- Author/Illustrator: Don Tate
- Published: Abrams Books for Young Readers, August 17, 2021
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Picture book, 48 pages
- Grade Level: 1 to 5
- Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Sports, Art
- ISBN: 978-1-4197-4943-8
- Extras: Notes, Bibliography