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Review: Chuck Close: Face Book

AUTHOR: Chuck Close, Ascha Drake
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Harry Abrams
ISBN: 9781419701634
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: nonfiction; art
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS art students, teachers

SUMMARY: Autobiography of artist Chuck Close told through personal narrative, questions and answer format, and 14 full-color self-portraits using various artistic techniques.

REVIEW: Art teachers and students will love this book! It’s a perfect way to introduce a living artist and the struggles he’s encountered throughout his life, including dyslexia, partial blindness, and paralysis. Art teachers could use this book to introduce new art media and challenge students to explore new ways to create interesting portraits. Some of the techniques include: watercolor, oil paint, etching, pen & ink, pastel, woodcut, and my absolute favorite, stamp pad ink.

The center of the book features Close’s fourteen self-portraits, each cut horizontally into thirds. This is a flip-book, so each of the portraits is interchangeable. For example, the forehead may be in pulp paper; eyes, nose, and moustache might be in etching, and mouth, chin, and neck might be in airbrush watercolor.

The first and last thirds of the book include a one-page introduction, followed by sections of questions from 12 fifth grade students in Brooklyn, NY. Questions include “How did you become such a great artist?” and “Why doesn’t anyone in your art smile?” Close answers each question in a first-person, conversational style. Close’s answers are honest, reflective, and easy to read.

Outside the 14 main flipbook-style portraits, the Face Book also features lots of Close’s other portraits, including portraits of former president, Bill Clinton; supermodel Kate Moss; and artist Zhang Huan, who makes paintings using ashes. Photos and art are full-color and on thick, semi-glossy paper.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Great for browsing or research, Chuck Close: Face Book is beautiful, interesting, and interactive. This is an autobiography that kids and teens will actually enjoy reading.


READALIKES: Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World (Montgomery); Soul Surfer (Hamilton)

Presentation & layout: 5/5–the flipbook style will appeal to browsers. Lots of white space, photos, and widely-spaced lines make text easy to read.

Quality of information: 5/5–Since this is an autobiography, the information comes straight from the best source possible. This book would work for research or for browsing.

Photos/illustrations: 5/5–Tons of full-color photos and artwork, many of which are full-page.

Documentation of sources: 5/5–All photos and artwork credits documented on p. 55.

Front and back matter: 5/5–Front matter includes one-page introduction. Back matter includes Resources (list of art museums featuring Close’s work), Books by/about Chuck Close, websites and videos featuring Chuck Close or his work, a full-page Glossary of art terms, a List of Illustrations, Acknowledgments, and a small Index.

Engrossing: 4/5–It’s interesting, but I could put it down. Browsers will love it since the pages do not have to be read in order.

Writing: 5/5–Conversational tone is easy to understand and draws readers in.

Appeal to teens: 4/5–This will be great for art lovers especially. I think putting this book on a centrally-located table (rather than just on a library shelf) will be the best way for my students to see and enjoy it.

Appropriate length: 5/5–At 64 pages, it’s not too long or too short.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Essential for MS and HS libraries. Elementary librarians will find an audience as well, just be aware of the portrait of Close smoking a cigarette (p. 12-13). Close does address the cigarette smoking in the corresponding text, stating “I am sorry I ever smoked. Do yourselves a favor and don’t start smoking. It is not cool.” (bottom of p. 12).



  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none (Kate Moss portrait is face portion only)
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Close smokes a cigarette in one portrait
  • Other: none

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