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Nonfiction Picks for Fans of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

2013 April 11
by Molly Wetta
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Graffiti Moon is the story of Lucy, a girl who hopes to meet the local graffiti artist known as Shadow on the night after her high school graduation. She is so inspired and moved by Shadow’s murals of birds in flight and girls with lawnmowers that she is convinced she even has a crush on him. Lucy agrees to accompany her friends and two boys, Ed and Leo, who promise they know the artist, to a party. The novel captures one night as Lucy searches for the elusive Shadow, only to discover that all along, he’s been much closer than she could have imagined.

Graffiti art is more than “tags” of stylized fonts or squiggles of spray paint on signs and the walls of abandoned warehouses or overpasses. It can also take the form of vivid and startling murals or politically subversive stencils. In the last few decades, it’s changed the way people think about what art is and has broken the boundaries between public and private space.

  • Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant is full of images of urban street art and has a historical feel to it. The styles may seem dated to some teens, but the visuals are still stunning.
  • The Grafitti Wall: Street Art from Around the World, edited by Cristian Campos, is a more recent survey of graffiti art and looks beyond New York to artists from across the globe. Though there isn’t much text, it’s a dual language book in both Spanish and English, which may make it appealing to teens whose first language is Spanish.

Shadow’s murals are often accompanied by bits of verse written by his friend, Poet. He even shares some of his favorite poets.

  • Charles Bukowski has an immense body of work, and I’ve only just begun to scratche the surface of it. It’s easy to see why it would appeal to Leo, and, in turn, fans of this book and YA literature in general. Bukowski is unpretentious and frank. His poems are composed of short lines and a staccato rhythm that beg the reader to keep reading. Readers may want to start with The Last Night of the Earth Poems and work up to his posthumous work, Slouching Toward Nirvana.
  • Pablo Neruda is perhaps best known for his sonnets and love poems, but I have a feeling that Leo was referencing The Book of Questions when he named Neruda among his favorite poets. The questions posed in this collection defy rationality and inspire readers to tap into the potential of their own imagination. I can see them complementing Shadow’s murals.

One question from my childhood that had never been answered to my satisfaction was “Why is the sky blue?” When Shadow describes the perfect shade of blue, I couldn’t help but think of that perfect blue sky. Not only does Gotz Hoeppe’s Why the Sky is Blue answer that question from a scientific standpoint, it also delves into the historical and philosophical explanations. I can just see Shadow reading this book and contemplating that perfect shade of blue.

Ed and Lucy spend the night talking about life, ambitions, and, above all, art. Since Ed is a painter and Lucy is a glass artist and they met in art class, art is something that connects them beyond this one night and Lucy’s quest to meet Shadow. Many of the artists they discuss are current and Australian, so it may be more difficult to find books detailing their work here in the US, but some of the artists they discuss have immense bodies of work and a variety of criticism published about their work that can give readers more background. Rothko is one of the most influential artists of the 21st century, and his use of color inspired Ed. Dale Chihuly is a celebrated glass artist who influences Lucy’s own work in glass.

  • About Rothko by Dore Ashton draws on many interviews with the artist to break down some of the mystery surrounding his paintings and construct a picture of the man behind the art and what inspired him.
  • Dale Chihuly: A Celebration by Dale Chihuly and Rock Hushka is exactly what it sounds like: a celebration! On the occasion of the artist’s 70th birthday, this retrospective looks at his art and his influences.

Books are great, but for those looking for some multimedia exposure to the art of Graffiti Moon, there are some excellent documentaries available.

  • Chihuly DVD collection gives a behind-the-scenes look into the works of this remarkable artist. There are segments showing how the glass pieces are created and how many artists must work together to produce them and how Chihuly works with the landscape to create his installations.
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop, A Banksy Film is a fascinating documentary that goes behind the scenes of global graffiti artists. It follows a French man in LA who becomes obsessed with filming the street artists in action and who ultimately has the chance to meet the elusive Banksy, a UK-based graffiti artist whose work is controversial and political. Wonderfully ironic, this documentary not only has excellent archival footage of graffiti artists, but questions the notion of celebrity artists and contemplates the line between inspiration and imitation.

If you want to take your exploration of the art and poetry of Graffiti Moon online, this Tumblr is curating the artists and poets mentioned in the book. Readers may also be interested in Global Street Art, which showcases graffiti art from around the world on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and their blog.

– Molly Wetta, currently reading The Shadow Speaker by Okorafor-Mbachu

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