If Monet Painted a Monster

Tilbury House. Oct. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780884487685;.
Gr 1-3–With the Newbolds’ third excursion into art history for children, a curious hamster provides a monster safari through some of the most famous works of American realist Edward Hooper, the surrealism of Dorothea Tanning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and many more. The story begins by asking readers to conjure up the mental picture of a monster, and goes on to explore how such a creature might appear if imposed on the landscape of various works of art. Rather than Whistler’s Mother, viewers are introduced to Whistler’s monster—a Lovecraftian sea-monster in a rocking chair. Vegetables are assembled into a monstrous still life to stand for Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s portrait of Rudolph II. The example of René Magritte does not seem to channel a specific piece, instead incorporating his themes into a ghoulish work of surrealism. While the works themselves, which appear to be rendered digitally, lack some of the painterly style and hallmarks of the originals, the monsters are integrated so that it is often difficult to distinguish which elements are part of the original; perhaps the best example being Franz Kline’s abstract monster in dark strokes. The last page offers children an opportunity to draw their own monster and the back matter explains more about the life and signature style of each artist represented.
VERDICT A clever and somewhat spooky introduction to famous artists and their signature works for early elementary students.

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