You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce
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Release Date
January 31, 2023
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A picture book biography about the barber shop of woodcarver Elijah Pierce, recipient of the highest folk art honor in the United States.

"Creeeeak!" goes the screen door to self-taught artist Elijah Pierce's barbershop art studio. A young boy walks in for an ordinary haircut and walks out having discovered a lifetime of art.
Mr. Pierce's wood carvings are in every corner of the small studio. There are animals, scenes from his life, and those detailing the socio-political world around him. It's this collection of work that will eventually win Elijah the National Heritage Fellowship in 1982 just two years before his death. But the young boy visiting the shop in the 1970s doesn't know that yet. All he knows is: "You gotta meet Mr. Pierce!"

Based on the true story of Elijah Pierce and his community barber shop in Columbus, Ohio, this picture book includes cleverly collaged museum-sourced photos of his art and informative backmatter about his life. With engaging text by Pierce to the Soul! playwright Chiquita Mullins-Lee and Christopher Award-winning author Carmella Van Vleet, it's illustrated with striking Japanese woodblock by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. A new addition to vital Black art history!

Editor review

1 review
Inspiring Art Biography
Overall rating
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Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
As a young boy goes to get a hair cut from a barber shop, he meets Mr. Pierce and learns there's much more to his barber than meets the eye. Mr. Pierce loves to carve wood and makes beautiful pieces. He doesn't do it for any other reason than the fact that he loves it and his passion is admirable. He also creates art with each haircut and turns it into a fun experience.

YOU GOTTA MEET MR. PIERCE is an inspirational read for young artists who can learn the love and time that goes into each creation. The illustrations are bold and cartoon-style. In the back of the book, the author goes into detail about his exhibit and some honors he received. The author's note explains the life of Elijah Pierce and places were you can find his work. I also enjoyed the added bonus of some pictures of his carvings and the year they were crafted. The author uses the character of the boy to make Mr. Pierce more relatable and to stand out as a role model.

Final Verdict: "Your life is a book and every day is a page." I would recommend this inspiring story to young artists everywhere. Elijah didn't even know he was an artist, he just loved carving creations and that's what is most important in life: doing the things you love.
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