Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art

Magic_Trash__J__H__Shapiro__Vanessa_Brantley-Newton__9781580893862__Amazon_com__BooksBy J.H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Charlesbridge, 2015. 32 pages. $15.95/hardcover; $7.95/paperback; $6.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 5–8.

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Magic Trash, an exuberant picture book that brings the biography of artist Tyree Guyton to young readers and listeners, has recently become available in the formats of paperback and eBook. When Tyree was a small boy, he collected discarded objects on his way home from school and turned them into toys or decorated them using his grandfather’s paints.

“Never stop painting,” Tyree’s grandpa said. A house painter, Grandpa Sam shared his brushes and paint with the young boy. Later Sam joined his grandson working on the Heidelberg Project, which began at the family’s own home in Detroit, Mich. Expanding it slowly to deserted houses nearby, Tyree found willing workers of all ages, colors, and descriptions in his own community. Their group effort helped to drive out drug dealers and keep the spirit of community alive.

The Heidelberg Project consists of themed houses covered with bright paint and found objects. Guyton’s unusual art attracts many visitors and also repels some. His career has had some setbacks, including problems with the city government, but determination and help from his neighbors have pushed him through the rough patches. Guyton’s art is exhibited at galleries and museums, but his major display is on Heidelberg Street. Now visitors come to Detroit from around the world. His story and art continue.

J.H. Shapiro writes with both prose and poetry to tell this story; it reads aloud well. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton uses mixed-media paintings in bright colors that mirror the joyfulness of the Heidelberg Street artist. Her pictures compel the reader to open the book. Guyton’s story celebrates the value of perseverance and the freedom to create one’s own path in the world. As a long-time Detroiter and Quaker, I share with Tyree Guyton an understanding of keeping the spirit of community alive in our neighborhoods.

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