Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.
The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7
Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.” In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!
Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7
Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.
If you’re an art lover, or if you’ve been following the latest news in the Isabella Stewart Gardner case here, we have a few books for you.
The Gardner Heist: the True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. Written with the pacing of a novel, but including meticulous research, Boser recounts the crime, various leads pursued by art detectives, and eventually his own obsessive search for the lost masterpieces. This book showed why the largest unsolved art heist in history has captivated so many, and may light the fire of obsession in a new generation of readers and art lovers.
If fiction is more your style, The Art Forger is a must read for any art lover. Claire is a talented artist who has been unjustly blackballed by the art establishment. Then a successful gallery owner asks her to forge a Degas stolen from the Gardner museum in exchange for a one-woman show at his pretigious gallery. Almost immediately she suspects the stolen painting might be a forgery, but the more she works on her own forgery, the more entangled she becomes. This novel has so many rewarding twists and turns it is impossible to put down.
And for a new picture book to interest your little one in art (both the masterpieces and creating their own), try The Museum by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. A child makes her way through a museum and reacts to the some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. And, of course, is inspired to create her own.
The Gardner Heist: the True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser; Harper Collins; $14.99
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro; Workman; $23.95
The Museum by Susan Verde illus by Peter H. Reynolds; Abrams; $16.05
Cristi’s Book Pick: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds for ages 3-6
The Dot, by famed illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, is a must-read for any child who thinks they are unable to do something. The book opens with a little girl named Vashti sitting at her desk with a blank sheet of paper on which she believes she cannot draw. When her teacher sees this, she tells her to make a mark to see what happens. Vashti, in frustration, angrily makes a dot in the center of the page. The teacher looks at it and asks her to sign the paper. The next day in class, Vashti walks in and sees her picture framed and hanging over her teacher’s desk. Irritated, Vashti looks at the picture and decides she can make a better dot than that one, starting her on a journey of drawing throughout the rest of the book. Due to her teacher’s clever encouragement, Vashti realizes she can draw.
Other books by Peter H. Reynolds – Ish and The North Star.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds; Candlewick Press; $14.00; Copyright 2003.
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach (8-10)
Mystery, betrayal, secrets and masterpieces are all part of this exciting and clever story by Ms. Broach. Marvin the beetle creates a special miniature sketch of the streetscape for young James Pompaday using the ink and paper art set that James receives for his birthday. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that James created the work himself. This leads James and Martin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where James is asked to take part in a daring ruse; create a forgery of a famous art sketch to keep it from being stolen! When the real masterpiece is stolen, Martin and James both become involved in trying to foil the art thief.
A fun, involving, masterful story. I could not put this book down! Reading about Martin’s efforts to communicate with James and their near escape from the art thief just had me hooked. The sketches, themselves, add to the story. A great read for those who enjoyed Chasing Vermeer or The Shakespeare Stealer.
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Henry Holt & Co., 2008, $16.99