Book Review: Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life by Jerry Pinkney

This memoir was written over a decade ago, prior to the passing of the author, but it still needed published. Thank goodness that Jerry’s family shared — Mr. Pinkney’s story is relatable as readers are immersed into the all-Black block in Philadelphia called East Earlham Street. Readers get to know Jerry as a boy, drawing on his bedroom walls and playing cowboys with his best friends. We see Jerry coming in late for dinner, staring in silence as his sisters teased him and called him “Jerry-with-a-nickname-and-no-middle-name!” But he was not “just Jerry,” as everyone would find out later.

We learn that Jerry’s dad taught him to use a saw to build, and the importance of focus. We learn that Jerry had trouble in school, as many of us did. Jerry’s teacher recognized his struggles and helped by asking him to draw so that he could participate confidently in class projects.

As Jerry became older, he discovered that he could, in fact, draw well, illustrating some of the most important books of our time. Once Jerry met John Liney, the successful artist who created the comic strip, Henry, he knew that he could be an artist, too. Jerry Pinkney won many awards for his efforts, including the Alumni Award (Philadelphia Museum School of Art) and the Caldecott Medal.

As a teacher-librarian, I loved the Editor’s Note that explains how Jerry wanted to have this book be “friendly to readers with dyslexia, and to that end the body text is set in a font specifically designed for that purpose.” I also appreciated the historical family and book cover photos and the timeline at the end.

This book is a keepsake – a wonderful work of art itself that helps us to remember the boy, the artist, and the legend, Jerry Pinkney.

Recommended for ages 10 and up and all future artists. 5 Stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Published by Jennifer Sniadecki

I write about literacy education and my love for reading and writing. My passion is sharing titles I use for school libraries, classroom collaborations, and professional development. My goal is to collaborate, research, and share with other life-long literacy learners. Welcome to my blog!

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