The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock

Other authorsMary GrandPre (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2014



Local notes

921 KAN (c.1)



Knopf Books for Young Readers (2014), 40 pages. Purchased in 2017. $17.99.


Describes how his creative life was profoundly shaped by a neurological condition called synesthesia which caused him to experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors.


Original language


Physical description

40 p.; 8.88 inches


0307978486 / 9780307978486



User reviews

LibraryThing member laineyh
Noisy Paint Box is another great addition to any classroom because it emphasizes the beauty and creation of abstract art. The Noisy Paint box tells the story of Vasya Kandinsky, a boy who is proper and meets all expectations of his parents and teachers. One day, he opens his paint box and begins to combine colors of paint and realizes that he begins to rich sounds from the colors he is creating. As he grows older, he must decide whether to continue meeting the expectations of his parents and society and continue to paint portraits and still life, or paint the abstract sounds that he hears coming from the beautiful paints in his box. This book is a great introduction into the creation of abstract art as well as the importance of following your heart. Students are introduced to one of the first artist to create abstract images and the illustrations in the book match the quality of Kandinskys’ original art. Bright paper collages and paint fill the entire page with color which will inspire students to not only read the book but also be inspired by the art inside.… (more)
LibraryThing member pataustin
Vasily Kandinsky was a dutiful boy who followed the rules and learned his subjects well until his aunt gave him a paint box. He didn't want to follow the rules anymore. The colors talked, and he invented a whole new way of painting. No one appreciated it, so he slipped back into doing things that he thought others wanted him to do, until one day when he was brave enough to listen to his noisy paintbox and create abstract art. The universal message of being caught between what was expected and being true to yourself touches everyone.

The author's note expressly states that the book is historical fiction; there is dialogue, and no doubt that is made up.
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LibraryThing member SuPendleton
This would be a good way to introduce young children (prek - 3) to Kandinsky, but older students would want more details about his life and his art - It does include an author's note and additional sources.
LibraryThing member harrisrm
This book tells the story about a proper perfectly polite little boy named Vasya Kandinsky. He practices the piano daily. One day his aunt gives him a paint box, they want to send him to art classes to paint landscapes like proper artist. But when he opens his paint box and began mixing colors he heard strange sounds. He hears colors singing and sees vibrant sounds dancing. Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors. I love his abstract art.… (more)
LibraryThing member HeidiJones
I loved this book! What an interesting account of Kandinsky's life and syndrome that he had. I used this book as a springboard for an art project and lesson on poetry. There are many life lessons to learn through this book! Through the use of the picture book, we explored the interesting life and condition Vasily Kandinsky had. We looked at some of his most famous pieces and discussed "abstract". We focused on the fact that Kandinsky believed that art should make you FEEL! We discussed how Kandinsky's pieces made us feel as we explored the colors he used. I was also very adamant about the fact that there were no wrong answers. We see what WE see, and we feel what WE feel. This is a story that I am sure my students will remember forever.… (more)
LibraryThing member bl200329
This a great read aloud as part of a unit of study on abstract art--in grades 2 through 4. Even though children may not understand the story being told the pictures help paint a better understanding. Creative approach to learning about artists and how even when they are young they see, feel, and hear the world in a unique way. This book shows how important it is to teach students that you see what you see and feel how you feel by what you see.… (more)
LibraryThing member thehidingspot
Vasya Kandinsky is a well-behaved child, always doing what he's told and what's expected, but he just can't seem to conform when it comes to his art. When his aunt insists that he learn to appreciate art like all proper Russian boys, Vasya tries, but his paint box is simply too noisy. He can't paint proper houses and landscapes with music that erupts from his colors. He has to create music with his paintbrush... and something entirely new and different. The NOISY PAINT BOX is a beautifully illustrated story about a boy who decides to be true to himself and let the colors sing! This book teaches a worthwhile lesson while opening the table for discussion about synesthesia and abstract art.… (more)
LibraryThing member crieder95
This book makes readers feel the way Kandinsky’s desired those to view his art, with feeling. It is frustrating watching Kandinsky fight against the norm to paint what he desires. Years of back and forth back and forth doing what is expected of him and what he actually wants to do take the reader on a roller coaster journey. And ultimately the reader is left with a feeling of satisfaction seeing a young boy, like themselves, become a man and achieve his childhood dream. He created his own art, and the world took notice of him.
This book is an encouragement to young readers to walk to the beat of their own drum. Kandinsky created and made what is now known as abstract art. This was something the world wasn't used to but something Kandinsky knew he believed in. With vivid colors the book expresses his art work and mind perfectly.
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LibraryThing member terran
This is a great book to introduce children to a unit on abstract art and to the work of Vasily Kandinsky in particular. Many children can relate to the story of Kandinsky's childhood and his efforts to do as he is told, practicing music, studying, and painting “normal” pictures. They may not understand the idea of Kadinsky hearing colors singing and seeing colors dancing. The author's note explains that Kandinsky may have had a "harmless genetic condition called synesthesia--one sense triggers another."
The vocabulary offers an opportunity to discuss some fun art terms ("snapping cerulean points," "crunching crimson squares", pistachio, cobalt, and saffron ) There are examples of Kandinsky's art, the author's note and a source list to help use this in the classroom. I think it's also great to share one-on-one and discuss conformity/nonconformity and how not doing everything "properly" is okay for some people sometimes.
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LibraryThing member ramfam5
I gave this book 5 stars because it is a brilliant story. Who doesn't love Kandinsky art? I plan to purchase this book for my classroom library. It would be a great book to read before doing a Kandinsky inspired art lesson.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is a well-deserved Caldecott honor book. The illustrations are story meld together to create a wonderful story of Vasily Kandinsky, the well-known abstract artist. As a child Vasily did what he was told. Feeling he was different and thus very constrained it took awhile for the boy to become the man who embraced his differences and in doing so left behind incredible art.

Hearing colors as musical notes that danced and sung in the air is how the artist perceived art. This is a wonderful story of creative differences.
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LibraryThing member Dipodomy
The true story of Vasya Kandinsky, a pioneering abstract painter from Russia. Vasya had synesthesia, a condition which let him hear colors and see sounds, and the book explores how that shaped his perception of painting and music from childhood through adulthood. Beautifully painted illustrations. Author's note in the back has more information about Kandinsky's life and a few examples of his art.… (more)
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Very nicely illustrated picture book about abstract Russian artist Vasily (or Vasya) Kandinsky. I found the author's note about the artist's condition that causes him to experience colors as sounds quite interesting. This book is deserving of the Caldecott honor it received. If I were a child, I would want to see more of the artist's work after reading this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member katelyndraper
Vasya was a very proper Russian boy. He could only study the proper subjects. One day he receives a paint box. He is inspired by the paint box. He paints the sound of music. His parents and aunt are unimpressed with his creation. He goes on to become a lawyer and leaves his creativity behind; until he goes to the opera. He is inspired to paint again. He paints the sounds that he hears and quits his job. His art teacher weren't impressed with his musical painting. Vasya stood up for himself and his art. He painted his feelings and the sounds around him.… (more)
LibraryThing member QianqiongWang
Can you image that paintings can sing? This amazing picture book tells us a story that the man called Vasya can paint the sound of the color with his “noisy paint box”. He uses the feeling of colors to draw pictures when he grows up. The paintings of him is a kind of abstract painting that get lots people’s welcome. This is a realism book and the pictures in this book are drew by water Color.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sberry6
This book was very beautiful to look at. While reading this book I connected more to the visuals than the storyline. This book chronicles the life of Vasya Kandinsky and his path to becoming a pioneer in abstract art. This book is great because it shows Kandinsky as a child who, like most children, do as they are told by their parents. Students who read this book will relate this to their home life and the struggle of having decisions made for you.
The beginning of the story is less colorful until Vasya receives a paint set where he can “hear” the colors hissing as he mixes them. The illustration allows the reader to “hear” the colors by using swirls, musical notes, and musical staffs. In one particular scene in the book Vasya is at an opera where he once again “hears” colors as they are funneled into his ear. I believe this story’s purpose is to not only inform children about a famous artist but, it also tells them they should do what they love. Vasya was told by his parents that he should follow in his father’s footsteps and he became a lawyer, but it did not make him happy. When he began to paint he became world renowned for his work and changed the way we view art today.
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LibraryThing member ashewert
This picture book tells the story of the life of Kandinsky, a famous abstract artist. When he was growing up, Kandinsky was expected to follow what others thought that he should do. That he should study hard, become a lawyer and that his art should be made up of objects like houses and flowers. But, this is not what Kandinsky wants his art to look like...he wants people to look at it and feel something, create meaning out of it and hear the music that he could hear when creating it himself.

This book could easily be used in teaching for an art class about abstract art. There is great value in students being able to understand that not all art needs to be of something for it to hold meaning or generate emotion. It also teaches us that although what we might want to do in life or in our career may be out of the ordinary and unexpected, it does not mean that we shouldn't do it anyway. Like Kandinsky we should follow our dreams and do what makes us happiest!
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
Great story about the Russian abstract artist who most likely had synesthesia. Biographical but fictionalized.
LibraryThing member Stewart24
A true "exuberant celebration of creativity" (from the inside jacket cover). I have seen Kandinsky's works before but I was never aware that his painting was inspirited by music. "Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors..." (inside jacket cover). In the story illustrations, before the boy is introduced to paint, his world is shades of blue and grey. As soon as he starts painting, reds and yellows swirl around him. I love how the text changes font to emphasize the onomatopoeia. The descriptions of the colors and sounds are incredibly sensory, such as "crunching crimson squares" and "whispering charcoal lines". The story is a wonderful retelling of the artist's life and the importance of following your heart and your passion, whatever makes you come alive. As the grown Vasya says in the story, "Art should make you feel...". I think it is very important to include art literacy in education. I would use this book in tandem with a lesson on Kandinsky, something very accessible to all ages of children.… (more)
LibraryThing member kristennicoson
This book tells the story of Vasily Kandinsky, the famous 20th century Russian artist who painted music. An innovator in abstract art, Kandinsky was thought to have a condition called synethesia where one sense triggers a different sense. Kandinsky's condition was a gift to the world. Barb Rosenstock's artfully told tale is fictional but it is based on the real events of Kandinsky's life and Mary Grandpré of Harry Potter fame brings the story to life with vividly colored illustrations that draw the reader in.… (more)
LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist. But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music? In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors—and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.… (more)






(98 ratings; 4.4)
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