Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flint Portraits: Tom Pohrt

Tom Pohrt, going shirtless in the foreground, in the backyard of 1407 W. Paterson long before his days writing children's books.

Artist and author Tom Pohrt grew up on W. Paterson Street in Flint, a few blocks away from Haskell Community Center. As these photos illustrate, there was no shortage of kids in the neighborhood in the fifties. But like the rest of Flint, Paterson Street went through a lot of changes over the years. Tom once told me a story about talking a neighborhood kid out of attempting to rob the nearby Genesee Bank on Welch Blvd. in the seventies to pay off a debt. This wasn’t just idle speculation; the guy had a gun in a paper bag and was headed for the bank when Tom intercepted him.

Here's a short biography detailing Tom's career:

A self-taught artist whose love of animals is evident in his artwork, Pohrt has been interested in writing and drawing ever since he was a little boy. As he commented on PippinProperties.com, "When I look back, my grade school years could have been the most important time; I began developing my creative skills, though now one encouraged me to do so, and I was too young to know better."

In Coyote Goes Walking Pohrt retells four Native American trickster tales, bringing his animal characters to life in what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "warm, earth-toned watercolors" that contain a "subtle humor." Described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "one off-beat destination that's definitely worth a visit," Pohrt's quirky picture book Having a Wonderful Time finds a girl and a talking cat on a vacation where unexpected animal-sightings abound. The reviewer had special praise for Pohrt's "confidently deadpan" text with its "dry, understated humor," but also commended the author's characteristic detailed pen and-ink drawings.

Praising Pohrt's contribution to John Frank's The Tomb of the Boy King: A True Story in Verse, School Library Journal contributor Barbara Buckley noted that "Pohrt's informative pen-and-watercolor paintings … will be a real draw" for young readers. Additional praise was accorded Pohrt's illustrations for Howard Norman's Trickster and the Fainting Birds, a Publishers Weekly reviewer praising the artist's renderings of the book's animal characters as "meticulously executed" and "precise, delicate" pen drawings.

Tom (middle) with his brothers Dick (left) and Karl (right) near the corner of W. Paterson and Lloyd Streets.

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Hot tubbing Flint style in the fifties. Tom is on the right.


  1. What a delight to be reminded of this important Flint family. I worked with Dick when we were both social workers in Flint in the 80s -- some memorable, vintage "Flint" experiences even before I knew of the significance of the Pohrt family. And of course they eventually moved on and made the wonderful Shaman Drum bookstore in Ann Arbor happen. How sad that it recently closed.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.