Art Appreciation

A Child's Book of Lullabies

Book cover: 'A Child's Book of Lullabies'
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a songbook of lullabies illustrated with paintings of mothers and babies by American artist Mary Cassatt. The songs are mostly classics such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Now the Day is Over, but you'll also find Cum By Yah. Mary Cassatt was an impressionist from the 19th century and her paintings include lots of baby bottoms and nursing mothers. They are all very sweet, but not necessarily everyone's style. It is sold by Dorling Kindersley with a tape of the lullabies. On one side of the tape is the music with vocalization and the other side is the instrumental version of the same songs. I don't care for the voice, but the tape does help to learn the songs, especially if you don't know how to read music. I think this makes a very nice beginning art and music book, particularly for preschoolers, and could also become a nice part of your bedtime routine.

Reviewed by: 

A Child's Book of Prayer in Art

Book cover: 'A Child's Book of Prayer in Art'
Author(s): 
Sister Wendy Beckett
Copyright: 
1995
Publisher: 
Dorling Kindersley
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
31 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This book is designed to help your child discover the lessons present in many fine works of art. The inside cover explains "In this, her first book for children, Sister Wendy has selected paintings that can speak to children, illustrating the important values of life, such as love, respect and forgiveness. She helps children to look and listen, gaining insight into art while developing a greater understanding of their own spirituality." For an art book published by a secular company the material is fairly religious and includes such paintings as French Peasant Girls Praying, The Martyrdom of Saint Clement, Christ Discovered in the Temple, The Kiss of Judas, and The Calling of Saint Matthew. The art selections are great - very classic - and the text is very simple. An interesting side point that homeschoolers will enjoy is that there is a painting called The Young Schoolmistress. In her description, Sister Wendy mentions, "Perhaps she is his big sister and he is being taught on his own at home. It is not only in the classroom, or from qualified teachers, that we learn about the world."

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime!

Book cover: 'Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime!'
Author(s): 
Anna Nilsen
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Kingfisher/Houghton Mifflin
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
48 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is an exciting and fun art supplement that kids are sure to love (makes a great gift for Christmas or a birthday). There are three main parts to the book. First is an introduction which explains a problem the art museum is having with forgeries. Several gangs of artists have copied original works, but made very slight changes to them. The object of the book is to identify who is responsible for the various forgeries by looking carefully for very specific clues.

The rest of the book is split into two books on top of each other. The upper part is composed of the forgeries - which look like real art until you look very closely (and thus the magnifying glass). A small symbol on the forgery will tell you how many changes the forger made to the original work. By studying the lower book - which is an art catalog with prints of the real paintings, the reader will discover the differences and solve the crime. The catalog includes information about the type of painting; the artist and when he lived; and a brief story about the painting and its subject. There are a total of thirty-four paintings and there is a complete answer key in the back of the book.

What a creative way to get kids interested in art and...fear not! You'll find no twaddle here. I was very pleased to see the practice in attention-to-detail that this book requires and encourages. It's enjoyable enough that my daughter has enjoyed working through it with friends on sleep-overs. There is one picture that jumps out at me as being a little on the shocking side. It's a picture of a very ugly old lady in a very low-cut dress. The book explains that it is a caricature of older women who try to dress younger but really make themselves look ridiculous. I don't really like the picture, but I don't think it really detracts from the book (it also offers the idea of additional purpose in art and an unusual way of making a point).

Additional notes: 

A magnifying glass on a ribbon is bound in

Review Date: 
7-19-04
Reviewed by: 

Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection

Book cover: 'Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection'
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

We enjoy CHC products a great deal because they fit naturally into our homeschool and family life. This little art appreciation course is no exception.

Arranged around the liturgical year, the package includes ten beautiful 8" x 10" full color, masterpiece reproductions featuring ten different artists (e.g. Michelangelo, Botticelli, Rembrandt, da Vinci) and a 25 page art appreciation guide. The guide provides excellent suggestions for teaching art appreciation in general (those who are familiar with the Charlotte Mason approach will be right at home) as well as specific suggestions for individual masterpiece focusing on content, line, color, pattern, and design. The information gleaned from this guide can easily be applied to other works of art you may already have in your home too.

In addition to the general use section, the guide devotes one page per month to the study of a particular masterpiece. A monthly theme is suggested along with ideas for integrating the study of the particular artwork into family life. Like other CHC products, this package has incorporated Catholic ideals into a program that is enlightening and edifying while remaining something that real families can easily work into their daily school and family life.

When we first received our package I immediately put all of the pictures into a frame, with the June masterpiece on top. I made a pocket on the cardboard backing to hold the booklet and we have weekly discussions about the picture that now hangs in our living room. Occasionally I take the booklet out of the pocket behind the picture and flip to some discussion prompts about line, form, etc. The children enjoy the looking at all the details in the picture while I ask questions and my husband is delighted to have a variety of religious pictures to brighten our room.

Review Date: 
9-16-02
Reviewed by: 

Brother Joseph: The Painter of Icons

Book cover: 'Brother Joseph: The Painter of Icons'
Author(s): 
Fr. Augustine DeNoble, O.S.B.
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Tom was an ordinary boy who loved being outdoors and drawing whatever he saw. Although Tom found school distasteful, his teacher, Sister Aquinas, saw artistic talent in him and encouraged him and lent him books on religious art. He discovered that his favorite artist was Fra Angelico. He attended a high school seminary and discovered that he wanted to be a monk. There he becomes Brother Joseph and finds that his artistic talents are put to good use. "He knows that he is busy about the right things, happy that as an artist he is able to give so much joy and peace to others with his icons."

This is a nice story about art, vocation and using one's talents for God and others. My children especially enjoyed the charming verses that run through the monk's head - "My brush will up and downward go, I'll paint like Fra Angelico!"

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Donated for review by Bethlehem Books

Review Date: 
11-15-2000
Reviewed by: 

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas

Book cover: 'Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas'
Author(s): 
Janis Herbert
Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Chicago Review Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
92 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids is a fascinating biography of a fascinating man with plenty of material to keep children and adults interested and amazed. The story details da Vinci's life, works, ideas and interests. His artistic and scientific creations and inventions cover an incredibly broad field - from his famous paintings to complex defense mechanisms for cities under siege to mechanical "creatures" to complex and artistically creative parties for important people of his day. The story is filled with fascinating details about his works, studies and ideas as well as many beautiful reproductions of his paintings and sketches. You'll find a resume that he wrote at the age of 30 for the ruler of Milan - offering his services as a military engineer! There are fascinating and sometimes humorous stories about how he prepared to design some of his greatest paintings, how he dealt with difficult clients and how some of his paintings were recovered centuries later.

Leonardo da Vinci has long been considered the paradigm "Renaissance Man". Through this book, he offers children a great example of enthusiastic love of life and learning. Readers will come away with a greater perspective on and respect for many important ideas: the importance and joy of learning, early advancements in science, general concepts of art and how to appreciate it, basic scientific concepts, ideas for using the imagination and memory, concepts in math relating to science, Renaissance life and much more.

I was impressed with the care the author took in relating so many interesting ideas in an accessible and engaging manner. I found difficult concepts handled graciously and respectfully - particularly for the intended age level. For example, the reader will learn that da Vinci's parents were never married and that this had consequences on his career choices. We learn that da Vinci dissected dead bodies at the morgue for the sake of artistic and scientific learning. At one point the Pope prohibits him from continuing this mode of study. Instead of being judgemental about these sorts of issues or dwelling on them inappropriately, they are explained in clear, simple terms as relevant parts of the story, but without any extra nonsense.

This would make an excellent "spine" text for a study of the Renaissance. In addition to the text and side bars, there are 21 activities relating in various ways to da Vinci's life. They span a wide range: baking, drawing, math, science, painting, observing, language and more. The book is best for independent reading in 6th grade and up. It could be read-aloud to younger children. Most of the activities are suitable for any school-age children.

Enthusiastically recommended!

Additional notes: 

Donated for review by Chicago Review Press

Review Date: 
12-11-04
Reviewed by: 

Leonardo Paintings and Drawings: 24 Cards

Book cover: 'Leonardo Paintings and Drawings: 24 Cards'
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Dover Publications
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

24 Postcards in perforated book

Most homeschoolers are familiar with the Montessori-style idea of having children learn to enjoy and appreciate great paintings by studying small post-card size reproductions (especially as promoted by Aline Wolf in Mommy It's a Renoir). This is a very nice program, as I understand it, but I've been frustrated with the lack of beautiful painting collections in postcard size. You can find them here and there at museums, but they have been very difficult to purchase on the web or from catalog. Dover Publications is beginning to fill that gap with some beautiful postcard collections, but Leonardo is my favorite so far.

The set includes 13 reproductions of paintings: Madonna with the Carnation (1475), The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (1508), Bacchus (circa 1513), Portrait of Ginerva de'Benci (circa 1478), The Last Supper - detail (1495-1497), The Benois Madonna (circa 1478), The Annunciation - detail (circa 1472), St. John the Baptist (circa 1513-1516), Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani a.k.a. Lady with an Ermine (circa 1490), Madonna of the Yarnwinder (1501), Madonna Litta (circa 1490), Mona Lisa (1503-1506), and Portrait of a Musician (circa 1490).

There are 11 beautiful drawings as well: The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, Profile of a Young Woman, Antique Warrior, Self-Portrait, Five Grotesque Heads, The Virgin of the Rocks, Vitruvian Man, Study for the Last Supper and Architectural Sketches, Old Man and Youth, Study for the Battle of Anghiari and Feminine Headdress.

This is a great and inexpensive way to introduce children to really great art. Also would make a nice supplement to Leonardo da Vinci for Kids.

Review Date: 
10-30-05
Reviewed by: 

Linnea in Monet's Garden

Book cover: 'Linnea in Monet's Garden'
Author(s): 
Christian Bjork
Copyright: 
1985
Publisher: 
R and S Publishers
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
53 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This book is a clever way to introduce children to the works and life of Claude Monet and help them to start appreciating the works of the Impressionists. "Linnea" is a little girl with a love for art and flowers who travels with her friend and neighbor Mr. Bloom (a retired gardener) to France to visit the restored estate of Claude Monet and the museums displaying his art. Besides the illustrations of this story, there are reproductions of some of Monet's paintings, old photographs of him and his family, and photographs of what his estate looks like today. Linnea helps to explain the idea of imporessionism and share her enthusiasm - especially of standing on the Japanese bridge. The book also includes a brief biography, a timeline and Monet Family Tree as well as information about other books on Monet and the Museums and other attractions visited by Linnea in the story. I'm waiting for them to write "Linnea in the Louvre" and "Linnea visits the Sistine Chapel"! : )

Reviewed by: 

Signs and Mysteries

Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Author(s): 
Mike Aquilina
Illustrator(s): 
Lea Marie Ravotti
Copyright: 
2008
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Number of pages: 
192 pages
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Mike Aquilina's newest book, Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols is a great read and a great reference book in one.

It's also an exquisite piece of art, thanks to the illustrations by Lea Marie Ravotti. (Do yourself a favor and click through to her site. Her work is gorgeous.)

It's so easy to take illustrators for granted, isn't it? But one cannot do so with this book. The illustrations are integral; the book is, after all, about looking more closely at symbols, visual representations of the life of faith. It won't do merely to talk about them. We need to see them. And see them we do, beautifully rendered by a gifted artist.

But the other thing we can't take for granted is the explication of these powerful, enduring symbols, and the importance of a knowledgeable guide. We need a guide who can gently but firmly impress upon us the power that is present in the visual language we're touring:

These symbols are, in one sense, quite ordinary; they are commonplace items from everyday life in the ancient world. And so we might take them for granted, overlook them. But they're there for a reason ...

When we see these signs, how can we help sensing we have received an urgent message, telegraphic, cryptic, from a distant family member?

If it would be an injustice to merely talk about the symbols without illustrating them, it would be an equal injustice to focus only on the visuals. Signs and Mysteries takes us on a pilgrimage of sorts, delivering those urgent messages from our ancient brothers and sisters in Christ, because, as the author tells us of these symbols:

The first Christians traced those lines because they wanted them to stand forever as a perpetual prayer, for remembrance of the dead, for the perseverance of the living, and for deliverance in times of trial.

Exploring these ancient (but still relevant) symbols is far more than an archaeological exercise. Signs and Mysteries may be a fascinating read and a valuable reference, as well as a visual feast, but it is also about connections to our Christian family. It is a personal book in the best sense of the word -- a book that connects us, through a shared and vital language, to the person of Jesus Christ.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
5-11-2009
Reviewed by: 

The Monuments Men

Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Book Cover
Author(s): 
Robert M. Edsel
Copyright: 
2009
Number of pages: 
468 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

"The Monuments Men" is an engaging and little known story about servicemen who specialized in trying to preserve the art and culture of Europe during World War II. Not only were they involved in trying to get the Allies to do as little damage as possible in fighting the war, but it became almost another front of the war with Hitler, who not only stole and hoarded unbelievable quantities of art (in order to create his own "Fuhrermuseum"), but also gave orders to destroy these hoards of art as the Allies made headway into Germany.

It's a fascinating story to begin with. The author skillfully weaves together a number of particularly interesting (and informative) stories by focusing in particular on two very great works of art that were particularly coveted by Hitler - Michelangelo's "Bruges Madonna" and the "Ghent Altarpiece" by Jan Van Eyck.

When the author started piecing together stories for this book, he had so much material that he ended up writing a separate book just for the stories about the Monuments Men that took place in Italy. The second volume, entitled "Saving Italy", was published in 2013.

Our family has also seen the movie and very much enjoyed it. It is rated PG-13 for some strong language and is quite simplified in comparison with the book (which is not a bad thing with a book that contains many, many threads of stories), but also has a number of breathtakingly beautiful and profound aspects to it.

Review Date: 
2-8-2014, updated 9-16-2016
Reviewed by: