Monday, October 13, 2008

How Artists See Jr. series by Colleen Carroll

Ah...Nonfiction Monday is once again upon us, and boy do I have some great board books for your little art lovers. A few months ago, I reviewed Colleen Carroll's How Artists See series (see review here). As I mentioned in my review, How Artists See is a series of inquiry- based books that teach children about and help them develop an appreciation for art.

Now, Ms. Carroll has come out with a series of board books for the youngest of art lovers: How Artists See Jr. There are currently four books in the series, each with a particular theme that greatly appeals to young children: dogs, trains, babies, and horses.

Trains Through the Ages, by Georges Spiro
Private collection / The Bridgeman Art Library
© 2008 Artists Rights Society, NY / ADAGP, Paris

Each book contains full-color spreads of works of art that feature the subject matter of the book. What's most impressive is that the works of art are very diverse: they're rendered in different mediums, come from different time periods, and show the subject matter in different settings.

As the introduction to each book says, "This diverse collection of images brings together a wide range of artists depicting a single theme, an approach that helps young children see how a favorite subject can look so different, yet so familiar."

This introduction at the beginning of the book also includes tips for using the book, including a list of age-appropriate questions adult readers can ask children about the book's subject matter.

For example, in How Artists See Jr. Dogs suggested questions include, "What is the puppy doing?," "Does she look happy or sad? How can you tell?," "How many dogs can you see," and more.

I love this feature because it encourages children to think about the book they're reading; it also shows them how they can relate what they see in books to the "real world." In addition, parents and other adults see how they can help children interact with books and help them build vocabulary skills, question/answer patterns, and more.

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, by Giacomo Balla
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear and gift of George F. Goodyear, 1964
© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Another great thing about the books is that they're larger board books. The dimensions are 6" x 7" 3/4, giving children the ability to see the artwork in detail.

Take a look at the piece of art below from How Artists See Jr. Horses. It spans across two spaces, and you can see the eyes of the horses, their panting mouths, the reins, and the cracks in the ancient work of art.

Horses Galloping, Egyptian, c. 14th century B.C.
Image © Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

So, let's talk about kid appeal. I have to admit that when I read about the premise of the book, I was a little uncertain that young children would be drawn to major works of art. After all, there are lots of adults who find it very very boring.

However, the format in which it's presented is very engaging. The combination of bright colors, thick pages, different mediums, and familiar objects draw my 19-month old to the books over and over again.

There are also no words in the book other than the introduction for parents and the name, artist, and date of the artwork. Children don't have to sit there and listen to someone read. They can explore at their own pace, name objects they see, and if they're a bit older, they can answer some of the suggested questions in the beginning.

The picture below from How Artists See Jr. Babies is one of my daughter's favorites. She points at and names the "baby, mama, eyes, nose, hat, and trees." It's fascinating to see her sit down with the books on her lap and start naming objects.

Bernadette and her Mother, by Maurice Denis
Bridgeman-Giraudon / Art Resource, NY
© 2008 Artists Rights Society, NY / ADAGP, Paris

I'm a fan of these books and think that they will appeal to both boys and girls, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and even older kids who love art. Highly recommended.

All images courtesy of Abbeville Press.

Head on over to Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday selections! As always, a huge thanks to Anastasia Suen for hosting!

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