Book Looks

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

From Nancy Gilson, Arts Editor at The Columbus Dispatch, comes more of her great looks into books that your children will love. This week, she looks into the art of reading…

Four new books for children make excellent use of the intrigue and surprise found in the world of art.

* Claude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains (Abrams, 32 pages, $18.95, ages 4 to 8) by P.I. Maltbie, illustrated by Jos. A. Smith

Before their first major exhibit in 1874 in Paris, the impressionists were suspect in the art world. They were too free and easy with form and color, critics sniffed, and Claude Monet might have been the worst offender.

Monet often painted outdoor landscapes. When he moved indoors to the Gare Saint-Lazare train station, though, he produced some of his most famous works: a series of trains arriving at and departing from the station. Maltbie captures the episode through the eyes of Monet's 9-year-old son. Smith's accompanying paintings are realistic, not impressionistic.

One drawback: Only one of the Gare Saint-Lazare paintings is reproduced, so you might want to supplement by going online or to the library and finding more to show your young reader.

* Me, Frida (Abrams, 32 pages, $16.95, ages 4 to 8) by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz (just published on Oct. 1) Frida Kahlo was overshadowed by her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

When the couple arrived in San Francisco in 1930, Frida painted her own portraits.

The works were considered ordinary until she captured herself and her husband as she thought the world saw them: He was large and commanding, and she was about half his size, obediently holding his hand.

The story is told from Kahlo's perspective, and a reproduction of her painting is presented at the end. The book is beautifully illustrated with powerful, colorful paintings by Diaz, a Caldecott medalist. * The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 40 pages, $16.99, ages 4 to 8) by Emily Arnold McCully

In the lovely book, McCully tells of the French boys who, in the 1940s, discovered prehistoric paintings in the Lascaux cave in southern France.

The narrative, clean and exciting, is illustrated with watercolor paintings of the boys on their great adventure as well as McCully's depiction of the horses, cows, bulls and people painted on the cave walls.

McCully, a Caldecott medalist for Mirette on the High Wire, visually and verbally tells a compelling story of the beginning of art.

* Who Stole Mona Lisa? (Bloomsbury, 40 pages, $17.99, ages 4 to 8) by Ruthie Knapp, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

In 1911, a brazen Italian house painter stole Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa off a wall of the Louvre in Paris. The thief was eventually caught, and the painting was returned to again become the museum's most popular attraction.

Knapp tells the story from the perspective of Mona Lisa, who enjoys listening to tour guides talk about her and feels lonely when she's hung by herself in the thief's bathroom.

McElmurry's novel illustrations fit the whimsically told story. She paints the heads of the crowd of viewers tilted in the same direction as they study the painting, and she depicts expressions of horror on the faces in the portraits surrounding Mona Lisa as the thief rips her from the wall.