Monthly Archives: March 2016

Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car by Cathey Graham Nickell

by Cathey Graham Nickell
illustrated by Bill Megenhardt
Genre: Children’s Picture Book/Outsider Art
Publisher: Twenty-Eight Creative
Date of Publication: November, 2015
# of pages: 40


Arthur Zarr is a quiet man with few friends. His life is rather plain, and his car is plain, too. But not for long! When Arthur gets a creative idea to add everyday objects to his car’s plain exterior, he’s noticed for the first time. Neighbors and other bystanders add their own artistic flair to the car, too. What happens when he enters his bedazzled vehicle in the town’s art car parade? Mr. Zarr finds happiness and makes friends by building an amazing art car. In this whimsical story, children learn about recycling, community, friendship building, and the power of imagination. The book includes a “History of Art Cars” page for readers who’ve never heard of this creative form of artistic expression. It also has a subtle ABC theme, as Arthur Zarr adds objects to his art car in alphabetical order! This is the first—and so far, the only—children’s book published about an art car. Suitable for all ages but especially ages 4-8. Illustrated by Houston graphic artist, Bill Megenhardt.
 Praise for Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car:

“Nickell’s book is a treat for sight, sound, and sense, for readers and artcarfans (no, you won’t find the word in your dictionary just yet, anyway) of all levels.”
Lone Star Literary Life.


“A wonderful story of art, opening up to the joys of life, and celebrating the artist in everyone.”—Lynette Wallace, Executive Director, Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Houston, Texas.


“Cathey Nickell’s book will help fuel the desire to make positive changes in our world through artistic endeavor.”—Alicia Duplan, Assistant Director, Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas.


“Cathey’s story. . . is both engaging and warm. By the end, I found myself rooting for Mr. Zarr. I even felt a small twinge of disappointment when he didn’t win the trophy. Artcar Nation highly recommends this book. Give it to all the children you know.”— Paul McRae, Artcar Nation.


ReviewI had the privilege of getting my hands on a signed copy of this wonderful picture book. And since this one is especially for children, I read it for the first time ever with my 3 year old son. Beside the occasional Eric Carle book, this is the longest book I’ve ever read to him. So I wasn’t expecting his attention span to keep up with me, but I definitely wanted to get his reaction.

The kiddo was super psyched about the new book I was going to read to him and loved the cover already. In the first few pages, Arthur Zarr’s solitude is emphasized by the colorless world around him. At first, only Arthur is in color. But the color spreads to his groceries from the Farmers Market to the first objects that he glues to his plain car. My son kept touching the colored illustrations, but he occasionally pointed at things that were still in black and white. I thought it was interesting how the uncolored drawings seemed so simple (like a talented child artist’s rendering) but then the addition of color added so much depth and maturity. Unfortunately, my son’s attention drifted before the color started to take over the story and Arthur made more connections with people in his community. I powered through and read aloud, even though he was jumping on the bed. I knew he was paying some attention though because he would randomly repeat words that I read in sing song.

I was so distracted by the kiddo’s shenanigans that I didn’t even notice that the objects Arthur Zarr put on his car were in alphabetical order. DOH! But I loved loved LOVED the alphabet at the end of the story comprised of the objects that they stand for. I also enjoyed reading about the history of art cars, since I didn’t know their origin story.

I read the book a second time around on my own so that I could write a proper review. I liked the ratio of text to illustration, since some books seem to have too little or too much of one or the other. I liked the repetitive aspect of the “plain car” and “quiet man”, and how the descriptions changed, as he changed. I loved how his world grew larger and brighter with each new interaction. And the ending was wonderful, too, because it didn’t end in a way that most children’s books do. I’m not going to ruin it for you. But trust me, it gets you right in the feels.

The publishing information in the back of the book says the audience is ages 3-9, but I have to agree with the recommended ages 4-8 provided on this tour. I know my son is still immature when it comes to story time, but the amount of text in this book is more appropriate for a school-aged story time.


BEER CAN HOUSE, 222 Malone St., Houston, Texas (weekends only). 
BERINGS Baby and Kids Dept., 3900 Bissonnet St. and 6102 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas.
BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOKSTORE, 224 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado.
BLUE WILLOW BOOKSHOP, 14532 Memorial Dr., Houston, Texas.
BRAZOS BOOKSTORE, 2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, Texas.
CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM, 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
THE JUNG CENTER BOOKSTORE, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
TOY FAIR at Pierremont Mall, 4801 Line Ave., Shreveport, Louisiana.

Cathey Graham Nickell is an author, mother, and wife living in Houston, Texas. She is best known as the seeing-eye-person for her little blind dog named Cricket. Cathey launched her first children’s picture book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, in November 2015. She doesn’t drive an art car herself, but she has a habit of covering the back of her SUV with bumper stickers! Cathey also snaps pictures of art cars—which are plentiful in Houston—when she sees them. Her all-time favorite car was the bright-yellow Volkswagen Beetle that her grandmother drove in the 1970s. 

Cathey draws from her experience as a former newspaper reporter and public relations professional. After taking a few years off to raise four children, Cathey started freelance writing again in 2012 when a non-profit organization called the Institute for Spirituality and Health hired her to research and write its six-decade history. Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was published in 2015. The book is used as a marketing and communications tool, and all financial proceeds benefit the Institute (not Cathey). Cathey graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism in 1985. She earned a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2013. Find her online where she blogs about her writing and publishing adventures.

GIVEAWAY!!  Three winners will each win 
$20 CASH & an Author and Illustrator 
Signed Copy of the Book!



Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

3/7     Hall Ways Blog  – Review
3/8     Because This is My Life Y’all – Author Interview
3/10   Books and Broomsticks — Review
3/11   The Librarian Talks – Excerpt
3/12   The Page Unbound – Review
3/13   Texas Book Lover – Guest Post
3/14   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
3/15   Missus Gonzo  — Review
3/16   A Novel Reality  — Author Interview
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