Art, Books, Current Events, Lists, Memes, Reviews

Beautiful Shades of Brown: A Review

Another day, another review. Today, it is Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring. I know I would have picked up this book just for its cover and its title. But with reading this as part of the Cybils, and noting the author, I know I might have ended up picking it for Nancy Churnin too.. as I will going forward!

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The Book: Beautiful Shades of Brown

Book Info

Title: Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring
Author: Nancy Churnin 
Illustrator: Felicia Marshall
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/ Art Biographies (6 – 10 years, and up)
Publisher: Creston Books (February 4, 2020)

Description (GoodReads)

Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists who looked like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. As a young woman studying art in Paris, she found inspiration in the works of Matisse and Gaugin to paint the people she knew best. Back in Philadelphia, the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint portraits of accomplished African-Americans. Her portraits still hang in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

My Thoughts

As someone who believes in the magic of words and art, this book captured my interest immediately. And as I turned the pages to lushly created artwork in wonderful shades of brown with lots of attention to detail accompanied by the rich narrative, I cherished it some more.

What I Loved

Nancy Churnin’s narrative take us through Laura Wheeler Waring’s life as she explores and develops her talent. I truly love when picture books bring to life those who deserve to be more well-known than they are (and sometimes unknown).

I also loved all those shades of brown that make their way into the narrative, giving readers a chance to learn all those beautiful shades of brown; like burnt umber, caramel, russet, and more!

Felicia Marshall’s frame-worthy illustrations are stunningly done in the style of Waring, and beautifully capture the era and emotions.

Backmatter includes photos of some of Waring’s original paintings, an author’s note with more information on Waring and Marian Anderson, a timeline, and reading resources.

And Then

I loved the first half of the book where focus was on her childhood and relationships with her family more than the second half. And would have loved even more information on Waring herself. But this book has certainly made me curious to learn more.


This book is beautiful; it is a biography as well as a narrative on art history, artistic process, perseverance, and successfully breaking racial barriers, all in one! And yes, artwork in itself too.

In Summary

A great addition to any bookshelf – and a wonderful resource to use for BHM, with art lessons, teaching colors and shades, and more.

Parents, teachers, and all educators: Be sure to check out Nancy Churnin’s website for resources, a teacher guide, and more.


“Maybe you didn’t see brown in a rainbow. …But brown WAS a rainbow, with orange and blue, red and green tucked inside, playing hide and seek.”

“..everyone would see how much color brown could hold.”

“It was as if she was hearing what she had been trying to paint for so long. Marian’s notes rose and danced about her in beautiful shades of brown.”

Get It Here

BookDepository  ||  BookShop  ||  IndieBound

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Beautiful Shades of Brown: A Review
Related Reads

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Written Before I Was Born 

This week’s theme at ThatArtsyReaderGirl for Top Ten Tuesday is books written before I was born. I decided to look at my bookshelves (and thankful for that A to Z listing I made last year!) and pick books that maybe fit into this month. So here are ten books from my bookshelves written before I was born that I am yet to read or would love to read again… genres – romance, race, and then simply because, one that speaks of travel (something I am sorely missing by now).

top ten tuesday: books from before i was born

Fact For the Day

Black History Month Fact:

The iconic cartoon character Betty Boop was inspired by a Black jazz singer in Harlem named Esther Jones. Read more about this at PBS.

And Now, the End of this Post

Dear reader, what are your thoughts on the featured book? Have you read this or other similar books? Any recommendations for me. And do let me know if this book intrigues you and/or if you plan to read it.

And what about the books in the Top Ten list? I am sure some of those are books many of you have certainly read.

As always, your thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

“I am not a skin color. I contain all of humanity in my heart and my mind, my flesh, my blood and my bones, and I am proud of that fact. You should be, too.” ― Laurence Overmire

44 thoughts on “Beautiful Shades of Brown: A Review

  1. This brought back memories from when I was in grade school! The teacher asked us to pick the brown colored crayon. I picked burnt umber (I’ve always loved that color) and she told me I was wrong. The next day she apologized and said burnt umber was a brown tone! This would be another great book for Lia in a few years!

  2. I was glad I read Beautiful Shades of Brown fairly early on, as it helped inform how I read many other picture books during the Cybils season.

    Hey, Venetia is my favorite Heyer!

    1. Beth, I am glad I read the book as well (though by the time I got hold of it, it was towards the end of the Cybils season)..
      And I had meant to add comments on those top ten books. Sadly, I am yet to read any books by Heyer (I know, I know!!)

  3. I love that wonderful quote from the book. Sometimes we have to look harder to see the “browns” in our environment, they represent those whose voices aren’t often heard. Whether it’s racial injustice and any other status, we have to give them a voice. Thanks for sharing this artistic book.

  4. Your review makes me ant to read this book. I love reading about interesting people and their lives. Plus lovely artwork?… I’m excited to read/see this book!

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