The epic story of two Chinese brothers who became art-world legends, illustrated with stunning paintings by the artists themselves
First there was one Zhou brother, and then there were two. They lived in a bookstore with their grandmother, Po Po, whose stories of paintings that flew through the air and landed on mountain cliffs inspired them to create their own art. Amid the turbulence of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, the Zhou Brothers began painting together on the same canvas. Today, ShanZuo and DaHuang Zhou are icons in the art world, renowned for working side by side on all their paintings and sculptures.
In this extraordinary biography, author Amy Alznauer joins with the Zhou Brothers to tell the story of their unique and often difficult childhood and their pursuit of a wild, impossible dream. The lyrical writing blends elements of legend, while the brothers’ dramatic illustrations soar with vibrant colors and surreal imagery from ancient Chinese cliff paintings. An inspiration for young artists and dreamers of all kinds, this deeply felt collaboration explores how art can bring people together, as well as set them free.
About the Author
Amy Alznauer is the author of The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, illustrated by Daniel Miyares. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching calculus and number theory classes at Northwestern University or spending time with her family in Chicago.
ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou were born in China, where they started painting together on the same canvas. They left behind a promising art career in China when they moved to the United States, where they have flourished as fine artists creating work that is sold around the world, including a painting commissioned by President Obama and gifted to President Hu of China. They are the founders of the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, where new artists work and show their art.
Alznauer’s text is poetically spare, capturing the tone of a treasured legend and delicately complementing the generous gallery of watercolors the Zhou brothers themselves contribute. An author’s note expands historical and biographical details, and a photograph of the adult brothers is also included.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
It's unusual for the subjects of an arts biography to illustrate the story of their own lives, but that's only one of the elements that set this compelling picture book apart...Picture-book biographies of contemporary artists are rare, and this one, which examines not only inspiration and artistic growth but the specific political reality of censorship facing many Chinese contemporary artists, thoughtfully and accessibly explores this timely topic.
—Booklist (starred review)
Through the vibrant ink-and-watercolor paintings by the subjects themselves, readers are immersed in the bold artistic style and spirit of the Zhou brothers. Alznauer’s author’s note further discusses the Zhou brothers’ career as well as elisions and compression made for the sake of narrative clarity. This engaging biography will comfort and inspire.
The transformative power of art takes center stage in this picture book biography loosely based on the lives of internationally acclaimed artists and brothers ShanZuo and DaHuang Zhou...A fascinating introduction to two contemporary artists who battled adversity and hardships to pursue the higher calling of creative expression. Purchase for large collections where picture book biographies are in demand.
—School Library Journal
Alznauer’s engaging text moves briskly, focusing primarily on the brothers’ relationship...Readers will be captivated by the book’s artful design and vivid ink-and-watercolor illustrations that seamlessly move between intimate family portraits and expansive, expressionistic double-page landscapes. A unique biography that conveys the scope and importance of the subjects’ work through original illustrations by the artists themselves.
—The Horn Book
In folktale cadence, Alznauer traces the story of two brothers, Shaoli and Shaoning, who struggle to create lives for themselves as artists in “the new People’s Republic of China,” which “did not appreciate the high spirits of people who ran their own stores and made their own art.”...An afterword explains how the tale simplifies the life stories of the Zhou Brothers, whose loose-lined, colorful pictures, influenced by both traditional Chinese style and modern sensibilities, depict their own journey. An intimate, inspiring introduction to two contemporary Chinese artists, and a moving reminder of creative work’s power.