Kid's Stuff -- Artist Biographies
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There are lots of great books out there encouraging kids to make art of their own... And a surprising number that talk about actual, historical artists. The appeal of biographies is still a little distant in our household... though I'd certainly be interested in any recommendations folk might have for more good books in this general topic...




"Katie Meets The Impressionists"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 1999)

The works of Monet, Renoir and Degas are explored in this volume of the fanciful Katie series. (See below for more reviews...) (-)


"Katie And The Mona Lisa"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 1999)

Please cue the Nat "King" Cole record... (-)


"Katie And The Sunflowers"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Orchard Books, 2000)

Part of a series in which a young girl encounters great art in fantasy play inside a museum. Famous pictures come to life and she has adventures with figures inside each canvas -- Tahitian women rendered by Paul Gauguin, Gallic farmers by Vincent van Gogh, etc. This volume explores the work of post-impressionists such as Cezanne, Gauguin and van Gogh... The gimmicky premise makes for rather flimsy, contrived plots, but the pictures are lovely and the overall sense of the fantastic is still delightful. A good way to bring canonical artwork into the lives of small kids... The series gets even better as it goes along. (B)


"Katie's Sunday Afternoon"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Orchard Books, 2004)

Another volume in Mayhew's art-appreciation series. The pretext for visiting the museum this time is that it's a hot day and the public pool is full, so Katie and her grandma go elsewhere to keep cool. Once again, grandma dozes off and Katie has a fantastic adventure among pictures that come to life. Mayhew explores the work of French Pointillists such as Georges Seurat, Camille Pissaro and Paul Signac, with Katie jumping into the paintings and characters from the canvas coming out to have a romp in the museum with her. The paintings are very pretty (though the plot is preposterous) and this is a nice way to expose little kids to great art. This volume has one of the more engaging, fluid plotlines of the series -- if you like the concept, this one's definitely worth checking out. (B)


"Bijou, Bonbon & Beau"
Written by Joan Sweeney
Illustrated by Leslie
(Chronicle, 1998)

Short, but sweet. Whether you like great art, dance or cute little kitty cats (or all three!) this brisk little book should bring a big smile... Painted after the style of Edgar Degas, this tells the story of a mama cat and her three kittens who become adopted by the dancers and stagehands of a Paris concert hall where Degas is making sketches for his famous ballet paintings. Degas himself is enchanted by the kittens and shields them from the scornful eye of a hot-tempered house manager. When the new ballet is finally staged, the kittens wander onstage, but instead of ruining the performance, they charm the audience and make the ballet the talk of the town. Cute story, beautiful artwork, nice cultural-historical lesson as well, although in a very subtle, unforced way. Recommended! (B+)




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