Preteen girl looking at a cell phone with her parents

Family movie night? There's an app for that

Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.

Parents' Guide to

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 6+

Exuberant bio celebrates artist who had success when young.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 5+

Based on 1 parent review

age 5+


So not only does this Coretta Scott King Award winning book give a wonderful, child-friendly biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat it also shows kids of all ages that art doesn't have to look just like a photograph or be painted by a Renaissance artist to be good.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Much more than the story of a young artist, this excellent biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat is a celebration of art and a call for young people to be creative. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is a work of art itself and celebrates creativity in all its messy glory. It focuses on Basquiat's early influences and his laser focus on and devotion to his work, and it carries a strong emotional tug. Though the family wasn't well-off, it was rich in art, thanks to Basquiat's mom, who made sure her son had plenty of arts enrichment and lots of opportunity to draw. Author/illustrator Javaka Steptoe chooses just the right, accessible detail. In a small but poignant moment, the mom sits on the floor and "draws with Jean-Michel on his father's old work papers." So we feel Basquiat's heartbreaking loss when she has to leave the family.

Steptoe's illustrations, made of mixed media with found objects on wood, explode with color and detail and collage elements, underlining the message that art doesn't have to be neat or stay inside the lines to be beautiful. Steptoe explains that he did this to invite readers "to create using the materials, people, and places in their environment." The book feels like one big riotous creative explosion -- Basquiat's and Steptoe's for sure -- but the underlying message is that readers, too, can express themselves and create freely.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate