NOEL KING, HOST:
The new book "Coloring Without Borders" is not a typical coloring book. Yes, there are pictures of two bears looking for breakfast and some birds looking for friends and a fantasy city and a treehouse. But the captions are in both English and Spanish, and there are no lines to color in. Instead, the drawings are left unfinished, so kids can fill them in.
Jennifer Sofio Hall curated the book. She wanted to help immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the proceeds from the book go to Families Belong Together. Hall convinced more than 80 artists to take part, including the illustrator and author, Christian Robinson.
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I was feeling troubled by the headlines and the images that I was seeing of families being separated and children being detained. Yeah. And I was feeling like our country could be doing better, but I wasn't really sure of what I could be doing. And when Jennifer emailed me, I saw her invitation to be a part of "Coloring Without Borders" as a way for me to get involved and help.
KING: My guess would be that, as an artist, you've thought a lot about how art and politics intersect. And I wonder, you know, given the times we're living in, do you think that artists have a responsibility to respond to political events that disturb them, like the separation of migrant children from their families at the border?
ROBINSON: I don't know if artists have a responsibility. But I know, for me, personally, that it's important to reflect the times that we live in - to put a mirror to it. And it's almost like I couldn't create without - yeah - taking into account all the things that are happening around me.
KING: Describe your drawing in the book. And tell me, what were you trying to communicate with it?
ROBINSON: Yeah. So my illustration for the book is basically a bird flying out of a cage that's been opened. And the caption is, draw all the birds flying out of the cage. And it's in English and in Spanish. And basically, yeah, I just wanted to create an image where kids could just draw all these birds just flying and being free from the thing that was holding them.
KING: I know that part of the idea behind this book is that it will help kids and their parents talk - right? - about some of the serious issues that we face in society today. If someone says to you, skeptically, you know, this is a coloring book. What do you say?
ROBINSON: Yeah. So actually, what sold me on this project was the fact that these books were actually going to get into the hands of children who are being detained. I personally know, firsthand, the power of creativity and being able to express yourself, especially in circumstances where you might feel powerless.
As a child, I grew up, and my mother - she struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of prison for most of my childhood. And so drawing and creating was a way for me to escape, but it was also a way for me to have some control over my circumstances. I couldn't control the world around me, but I could at least control what the world looked like on a piece of paper.
And, yeah, that's really a positive impact I think this book can have on the lives of these children and children all over the country, on both sides of the border.
KING: Christian Robinson is a contributing artist to the book "Coloring Without Borders." Christian, thanks so much.
ROBINSON: All right, thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIVAL CONSOLES' "SONNE")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.