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Monday, March 12, 2018

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and LInes, written by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"One day when Maya looked at the patterns of light and lines on the ceiling of her college library, she imagined she would become an architect who created buildings with art, science, and math."

It constantly amazes me to see the number of quite remarkable picture book biographies being published today. As I was looking through the ones I had piled up to share while honoring women this past week, I was quite surprised to see how that stack had grown. We have good reason to celebrate those who have accomplished exceptional work in their field, and I want to tell you a little bit about one more of them.

It recognizes the Chinese-American artist who created the design for the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. As a child, Maya Lin loved to play in the woods near her home, and often spent hours in silence, watching the wild animals who lived there. She even held out a hope to tame them. At home, she and her brother enjoyed chess, art and doing what made her happy.

Her parents, artists themselves, encouraged Maya's ability to learn. In her last year at college, she decided to put that learning and artistic ability to work by entering a contest to design a memorial honoring those who had died in the Vietnam War. She visited the site where the memorial would stand. Everything she felt about the soldiers, the space and the reason for the contest led her to a design that was accepted from a strong group of 1,421 entries.

What an accomplishment and what a furor it caused. Despite many objections, Maya remained true to her vision. Work began.

"The first time Maya visited
the finished wall, she searched
for the name of the father of a friend.        
When she touched the name, she cried,
just as she knew others would."

Since that day, many thousands of people have visited - seeing, touching, remembering those who gave their lives. The memorial was only the beginning for Maya. She has gone on to work on many different projects, all with the same wish for those who visit.

"Each piece  is different,
but all share Maya's vision.
She wants people to be
a part of the art. Look. Touch. Read.
Walk around. Sit by. Think about."

This book is a quiet celebration of the artist-architect's work, and gives readers a real sense of what she has accomplished, including being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and being awarded the National Medal of Arts. 

Detailed artwork offers varying perspectives, clean lines, and the wonder that Maya Lin saw around her. An author's note follows the clear and impressive text.

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