Wednesday: Louvre Up Close

For my art classes, I’m constantly on the look-out for great children’s art books..and Louvre Up Close by Clare d’Harcourt is one of my all-time favorites. In this oversized book, children can really dive in head-first to the best works of the Louvre and play a scavenger hunt along the way. Each two page spread features a piece of art (Mona Lisa, Egyptian Sarcophogi, Snyder’s The Fishmongers, etc) with 10 magnified details for the child to find. Then, in the back of the book, each piece of art is described in detail with an open-the-flap feature that is sure to keep those little ones asking for more. With more than 200 details to find within the book, it’s like an up close and personal tour of the Louvre (minus the croissants you’d inevitably eat after visiting…)

Friday: There Was an Old Lady

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, but perhaps it was so she could have her story told in this exquisite, unbelievably gorgeous, whimsical, magical book.  Jeremy Holmes, an artist is every sense of the word, has recreated this classic story in one of those most amazing books I’ve seen in a long time. We all know the story – lady, fly, spider, bird, cat…her untimely death after nibbling on a horse….But this oft-told tale is suddenly made new under Holmes’ talented hand. it’s like the Old Lady met Edward Scissorhands at a party and they got together and made this book. It’s edgy and interactive (the old lady’s coat comes off as a book cover and her eyes close at the end) and one of those rare books that also qualifies as fine art. Love it.

Ages 2-6. Visual and musical gimmicks enhance Carle’s signature bright, textured collages in this holiday-cum-counting story. A white-bearded farmer lives the simple life with a few animals that he names One through Five. Children don’t find out which number matches which animal, though, until they follow the farmer through a visually clever dream. “It’s almost Christmas, and it hasn’t snowed yet,” says the farmer. But as he sleeps, he envisions snow falling, covering each of his animals, while the text counts along–“The snowflakes gently covered One with a blanket”—a plastic sheet printed with snow overlays each page, concealing the collage images until readers lift the page and discover that One is a horse, Two is a cow, etc. Dream becomes reality when the farmer awakes to a white world and hurries outside (dressed in Santa coat and boots) with presents for the animals and ornaments for a tree that, thanks to a changeable battery pack, plays a chiming tune at the press of a button. Although this is more an exercise than a story, Carle fans and toddlers learning the basics will still enjoy the gentle text and creative design features.

Friday: Art and Max

Never before have I seen a children’ s book that more articulately and beautifully captures the artistic spirit than David Wiesner’s “Art and Max.” It should come as no surprise that Wiesner has come up with yet another gem of a book – he is one of two people to have ever won the Caldecott for three different books (“Tuesday”, “The Three Pigs” and “Flotsam) – all of which are worth buying and immediately loving.) What sets “Art and Max” apart from the others, though, is that it truly challenges readers big and small to think about the creative process of artists and appreciate the different ways and methods in which art can be made. Lofty subjects for young readers, but Wiesner makes them come to life magically. Art and Max are two lizards. Art is a serious artist – one who studies form and shading and lines. Max just wants to be an artist and, despite Art’s instruction, moves ahead with his own way of creating and we find that both can be beautiful. I really can’t recommend this book more highly – it’s a masterpiece in its own right.