The Museum by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Verde captures the energizing nature of a visit to an art museum. Told in first-person verse, the young female protagonist dances and spins through the gallery, drawing inspiration and emotion from the art around her. As she moves to a new piece of art, it evokes a new reaction that is entirely in keeping with the art in front of her. Finally, faced with a blank white canvas, she discovers that her own mind starts to fill in the art on its own. As she leaves the museum at the end of the day, her world is transformed by the art she has seen that she now carries along with her. This is an engaging story of a museum visit that is sure to inspire young readers to want to try it for themselves.
Verde’s verse is filled with motion and zing. While some may see visiting a museum as a more sedentary and intellectual activity, Verde fills it with motion and emotion alike. She conveys through the young girl’s physical reaction what is happening to her mentally. It is a very successful take on the transformational quality of art and how it can speak on many levels to viewers.
Reynolds’ art adds to the feel of motion and engagement in the book. His young figure is constantly in motion, even when she takes a short break, she is inspired by art. Reynolds’ illustrations are done in his signature fluid style, yet he is able to capture different art periods very effectively.
Ideal to use with a class before a museum exhibit or with children before a family visit to a museum, this is also a book that will inspire reflection about art during a regular day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
Mossy by Jan Brett
Mossy loved living at Lilypad Pond. She spent so much time along the banks that moss and then small plants started to grow on her shell. She became a walking garden and liked to look at her reflection in the water to see how her garden was growing. On day, she met a male turtle named Scoot at the pond. The two were smitten immediately. But just as they were about to meet, Dr. Carolina, who owned a museum, picked up Mossy and took her away to be the center of a new display. Mossy spent several seasons at the museum, missing Scoot but being well cared for. She was a very popular exhibit. So when Tory, Dr. Carolina’s young niece, noticed how sad Mossy seemed and how lonely, there was a big decision to be made.
Brett’s story speaks to the importance of leaving living creatures in their native habitat to live their own lives. It is a subject handled delicately here with no abusive storyline at all, just a general sense of sadness, which is perfect for young children. The book is set at the turn of the century with the clothing and use of horse-drawn carriages giving clues.
As always, Brett’s artwork is simply beautiful. In each two-page spread, she gives the main image a frame and then has several additional pictures that either add to the story or the setting. We get to see different plants up close, glimpses of the museum even when it is not in the storyline, and Scoot waiting at the pond.
This is not a book to be read quickly or with a group, instead it’s one to linger over and see the details of the artwork. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Salted Fish by Yeo Wei Wei, illustrated by Ye Shufang
Lynn is visiting an art museum for the first time. She knows that the National Art Gallery will have lots of art inside it. She and her toy bunny find a painting of fruit and then set out to see if they can find one with strawberries in it. As they are looking, they smell something strange coming from one of the paintings. As she counts things in the painting, she and her bunny hear a voice speaking from the painting. Lynn finds herself drawn into the painting and learning about the way they are making salted fish. The taste of the salted fish reminds her of her grandmother’s home. As she leaves the painting with a bundle of fish to take with her, she promises to return to the art museum again.
The story here is told with a quiet, gentle voice. Lynn’s interaction with the painting is not frightening at all, but an enthralling moment of connection. It is what one hopes a child will experience at an art museum. The story is built around a famous painting by Cheong Soo Pieng called Drying Salted Fish. At the end of the book, information on the painting and the artist is shared.
Shufang’s art is engaging with the bright-eyed child and the strong architectural lines of the building itself. A muted palette that has pops of bright color at times adds to the quiet appeal of the book.
This book gives young readers a small taste of Singapore which they will probably appreciate much more than the smell of salted fish! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from book received from The National Art Gallery, Singapore.