“A rainy day trip to the art museum leads to an extraordinary moment of transformation for a young dancer.”
Parker loves to dance, but one ordinary, rainy Tuesday, the D.C.-based young ballerina skips dance lessons to instead join her mom and younger sister Ava on a spontaneous trip to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. To Parker’s delight, her friend, Gia, meets her there, and together they enjoy a frolic through the galleries, viewing and enjoying the art on display at the museum through their youthful, happy eyes. Jackson masterfully depicts this idea of seeing the featured paintings through Parker’s and Gia’s young eyes, exaggerating the elegance and sparkle of the painting August Belmont and Isabel Perry, and playfully showing the girls’ disgusted reaction to the work The Chinese Fishmonger as the dead fish spill out the sides of the frame. But an ordinary day becomes extraordinary for young Parker, the ballerina, when she finds herself looking up at Amy Sherald’s portrait First Lady Michelle Obama. A flood of energy and emotion overtake Parker, and while her mother pours out words of adoration about the former first lady—“Mother,” “Caring,” “Advocate,” “Sister”—, Parker is captivated. “She’s a queen,” she thinks to herself, and moments later, Parker is stunningly portrayed dancing in the same dress worn by Obama in her portrait. The scene marvelously captures the inspiration, hope, and example Obama is to a rising generation. Jackson’s illustrations throughout are remarkably beautiful, with enchanting detail and depth in the digitally rendered pictures. Jessica Curry is true to including her daughter Parker’s voice in the story, and the two are listed as co-authors.
When Parker Curry came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s transcendent portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. When a nearby museum-goer snapped a photo of a mesmerized Parker, it became an internet sensation. Inspired by this visit, Parker, and her mother, Jessica Curry, tell the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes an extraordinary moment, in a moving picture book. Parker Looks Up follows Parker, along with her baby sister and her mother, and her best friend Gia and Gia’s mother, as they walk the halls of a museum, seeing paintings of everyone and everything from George Washington Carver to Frida Kahlo, exotic flowers to graceful ballerinas. Then, Parker walks by Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama…and almost passes it. But she stops…and looks up! Parker saw the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in this powerful painting of Michelle Obama. An everyday moment became an extraordinary one…that continues to resonate its power, inspiration, and indelible impact. Because, as Jessica Curry said, “anything is possible regardless of race, class, or gender.” FOREWORD BY ARTIST AMY SHERALD
The paintings featured in Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment are recreated by illustrator Brittany Jackson so as to reflect the way they were viewed through young Parker Curry’s eyes.
In the illustration depicting the facade of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, which houses the two Smithsonian museums visited by Parker Curry and her family, “Reynolds” is mispelled “Reynalds.”