Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing Book Poster Image
Joyous biography of artist celebrates creativity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Biography of significant artist. Specific examples of Keith Haring's art. Concept of murals and public art. Afterword that elaborates on biographical information. Index of featured art.

Positive Messages

Everyone deserves art, and public art is important. If you're passionate about something, pursue it, even if others question you or try to steer you in another direction. Kids' art is worthwhile.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Keith loved to draw from an early age and continued to pursue his passion when others questioned him. Even when he became famous and made money from his work, he continued to work on public art projects that could be enjoyed by all. Keith is a compelling gay activist role model who fought for the rights of LGBTQ people and those with AIDS.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, by his sister Kay A. Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, is a biography of the artist Keith Haring, whose art was intricately woven into the cultural fabric of the 1980s. His chalk drawings in the New York subway and downtown murals were as celebrated as his gallery art, and Haring himself was an unmistakable presence in his signature hoodie, sneakers, and glasses. Haring's bold art has a joyously childlike quality that makes it highly accessible to kids. Haring was an out gay man and an activist for AIDS funding, though this book focuses more on his childhood and other public work -- for instance, painting a mural at a kids' hospital in Paris. A great role model for young artists and for anyone pursuing a passion, Haring believed art should be available to all, not only the privileged.

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What's the story?

The biography KEITH HARING: THE BOY WHO JUST KEPT DRAWING starts in Keith Haring's youth, when his father taught him to draw and he doodled on his work at school. Young Keith was bubbling over with creativity and always drawing. He won an art prize in high school, went to art school in Pittsburgh, and then moved to New York City, where he painted murals on the subway and exhibited in galleries. As his work became internationally successful, Keith continued to find ways to offer his art to the public for everyone to enjoy.

Is it any good?

This biography does a great job of portraying Haring as a joyous, passionate, bighearted artist, very relatable to quirky, artistic kids. In Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, the story is carried along by the infectious repeated refrain "He just kept drawing," reflecting the author's experience of her soon-to-be famous brother when they were still kids. It emphasizes Haring's commitment to public work, highlighting projects that were for or involved kids, though it might have added even more depth if it had presented him more explicitly as a gay role model and touched on the savvy ways he was able to use his art in his activism.

Robert Neubecker's exuberant illustrations hit all the right notes, incorporating Haring's own art, communicating Haring's appealing presence, and conveying the energetic diversity of New York City. The book ends with an afterword and an index of art that includes the pieces he did as a kid, carrying the implicit message that kids' art is important, as worthy as work displayed in galleries.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the art in Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. How does the art he made when he was older look like the pictures he drew when he was young?

  • Why do you think Keith liked to draw outside, in the subway and on building walls?

  • The last pages picture all the art that appears in the book. Can you find each piece of art in the story? What about the ones his father and sisters drew?

Book details

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