Monday, October 22, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illustrated Amanda Hall

As I'm sure I've muttered about before, I don't like picture book biographies. I especially don't like picture book biographies about artists. I really especially don't like picture book biographies about artists that don't include any of the original art.

But, completely against my will, I found this picture book biography about an artist which has none of his original art to be AMAZING.

Michelle Markel's text is beautiful. It's imaginative, simple, lyrical, and quotable. She tells the story of Rousseau who, at the age of 40, decides to paint. He studies, practices, and goes on painting despite the negative comments of critics and experts. His art unfolds his imagination, revealing his love of nature, color, and adventure. Slowly he becomes accepted by artists and finally by the critics, although he is never a great financial success in his own lifetime. But he doesn't care and continues to paint the marvelous dreams he sees in his head.

I think what really made this book work for me were Amanda Hall's paintings. While completely original, they are strongly reminiscent of Rousseau's work. They're a more softened and child-like vision, if that makes sense. There are rich colors, odd perspectives, and strong shapes, just like the originals. There is one illustration of a lion attacking a deer that might be a little scary for sensitive children (and parents). However, the overall impression is of humor and warmth. Rousseau himself is painted seriously, but never taken seriously, adding to the light, imaginative tone of the story.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this story and while I wouldn't purchase it for my library (no matter how awesome they are, picture book biographies just do. not. circulate.) I'd strongly recommend it for a larger collection or a library where picture book biographies are popular.

ISBN: 9780802853646; Published 2012 by Eerdmans; Review copy provided by the publisher and used in special library giveaway

1 comment:

Perogyo said...

I love that this is like a cartoon version of Rousseau's art. It's a very attractive cover.