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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | New York City

Those Kennedys

Patrick and the PresidentAmerica has a fine tradition of elected officials who care deeply about the people, places, and policies of the United States of America. Two recent books highlight the good works of, and respect for, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the First Lady and President from 1961 to 1963. Although President Kennedy was assassinated just two short years into his term as President, the First Lady continued her work for the benefit of the people throughout her life.

In Patrick and the President, Ireland’s Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy, has written his first children’s book about President John F. Kennedy’s visit to his ancestral homeland, Ireland. In June of 1963, President Kennedy spent four days in various cities, visiting sites and meeting people. This book shares one boy’s experience of meeting the President.

Patrick Kennedy, John’s great-grandfather, left Ireland in 1848 aboard a famine ship. Many people in Ireland relied solely on potatoes as their food source, so when a blight affected the potato crop, nearly one million people starved to death and one million people emigrated to America. The immigrants retained a strong love for their original country, which they passed along to their children and grandchildren. John F. Kennedy’s decision to visit Ireland was heralded by Irish people on both sides of the ocean.

The language of this story beautifully portrays the excitement the entire town felt as they welcomed this world-famous Irish descendant back to the land of his roots. Patrick, the boy in the story, will be part of the children’s choir singing “The Boys of Wexford” when the President visits … and his father negotiates a chance for Patrick to help serve tea to the President when he visits the Ryans and Kennedys in New Ross. Emotions are high and expectations are tense: who will get to talk with “Himself”?

Tubridy is the author of a book written for adults: JFK in Ireland: Four Days That Changed a President. The information here is distilled in a way that feels personal and immediate. Every child will identify with young Patrick, knowing full well what it feels like to have high hopes for something.

P.J. Lynch, currently the Children’s Laureate of Ireland, contributes nearly photographic illustrations of Patrick, his family, the helicopters, the President, and the food.

There are two pages in the back matter that list Kennedy’s itinerary during his four-day visit, along with three sepia-toned photos. Don’t miss reading this information—it’s quite interesting.

The closeups and focus on Patrick and his family bring a palpable excitement to the book, which encourages reading throughout a somewhat long but ultimately satisfying text. This would make a good read-aloud for discussing several things in class. Who was President Kennedy? What do families mean to us? From where did our forebears immigrate? What do these connections across oceans and time mean for our world?

Patrick and the President
written by Ryan Tubridy, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Candlewick Press, 2017
ISBN 978-0-7636-8949-0, $16.99

The interior of Grand Central Station in New York City, © Charlotte Leaper | Dreamstime.com

Natasha Wing wrote one of my favorite picture book biographies, An Eye for Color: the Story of Josef Albers, so I was excited to learn that she has written a book about historic preservation, starring none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

When Jackie Saved Grand CentralAs First Lady of the United States for two years, she captured the attention and imagination of every newspaper, magazine, and newsreel in the land. Women adopted her fashion sense and hairstyle. She did a great deal to restore the grandeur of the White House and would undoubtedly have done more had she been in residence there longer.

Returning to live in New York City, the city in which she grew up, Mrs. Kennedy learned that Grand Central Station was in danger of being altered with a skyscraper built on its roof!

“Like a powerful locomotive, Jackie led the charge to preserve the landmark she and New York City loved. She joined city leaders and founded the Committee to Save Grand Central. She spoke at press conferences and made headlines.

“She inspired citizens to donate money. When people across the United States saw their fashionable former First Lady championing her cause, New York City’s fight became America’s fight.”

In other words, only Jacqueline Kennedy could promote a cause in a way that resulted in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, under which Grand Central Station could find the protection it needed to be restored to its former grandeur. 

The text is written with such clarity and verve that the reader will want to look for an historic building of their own to save! An extensive author’s note provides more information that will prompt some children to adopt this as a cause of their own.

The illustrations by Alexandra Boiger are energetic and whimsical, all the while using color to subtly emphasize parts of the story. In “A Note from the Illustrator,” you’ll find much to discuss about the colors she uses while you pore back over the book to find examples.

For a classroom, this is a terrific way to begin talking about the buildings we see every day, why they are important to a community, and what they mean for our future.

When Jackie Saved Grand Central:
The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon

written by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

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Skinny Dip with April Halprin Wayland

April Halprin WaylandToday we welcome author and educator April Halprin Wayland to Bookology. Her most recent picture book, More Than Enough, is a story about Passover. April was one of nine Instructors of the Year honored by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, Creative Writing.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I would LOVE to have coffee (one-shot latte with extra soy, extra foam) with Crockett Johnson, author/illustrator of Harold and the Purple Crayon but most notably for me, author/illustrator of Barnaby, a comic strip that ran during WWII (actually 1942-1952). I think of it as the predecessor of Calvin and Hobbes. Barnaby stars five-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his fairy godfather Jackeen J. O’Malley. Mr. O’Malley continually gets Barney into trouble. It’s brilliant.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

You’re joking, right—one book? I’ll tell you right this very minute what books (plural) I recommend. But ask me in half an hour and my list will be completely different.

Favorite city to visit?

NYC! And Poipu, Kauai! And let’s not forget London, for heaven’s sake. And anywhere my husband, my son, or my best two friends are.

Most cherished childhood memory?

One August when I was nine or ten, I found a raft by the Feather River, which ran by our farm. I repaired it (I don’t remember if an adult helped me or not), then climbed aboard and lay back. The next month, at the beginning of the school year, my teacher asked us to choose a word and define it by writing about something that happened that summer. I wrote about that hot summer day on the river. My word? Bliss.

What’s your dream vacation?

Like my favorite books, this will change in the next half hour. For right this minute it would involve my husband, our lanky, knuckle-brained dog, Eli, our son and his girlfriend, hiking, biking, meadows, forests, and arriving at a different bed-and-breakfast each evening with farm-fresh, just-harvested food for dinner, a down quilt each night, and a one-shot latte with extra soy, extra foam each morning. 🙂

April Halprin Wayland in the classroom

Best tip for living a contented life?

I ask myself a central, touchstone question: Will this action or thought help me to like myself?

So, for example, each day I might ask myself: Should I say yes to this invitation to speak? Should I eat this whole bag of (fill in the blank)? Should I spend an extra half-hour with this person, even though I have a pile of work at home? Should I go to this political gathering? Should I volunteer to help put on an event? Should I skip meditation (or exercise or walking the dog) today? Should I pick up that piece of trash I just passed? Do I really need to eat the whole jar? Should I floss my teeth? Should I work on this poem or this book? Should I go to a meeting tonight? Should I turn off the computer and spend time with my husband, who just got home from work?

If I ask myself that question, the answer is always clear. I may not choose to act on the obvious answer, but if I do, I feel more content.

Monkey-and-Eli-read-poetry-together_600px

Monkey and Eli read poetry together.

Your hope for the world?

That we will be kind to each other.

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Celebrating Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack KeatsJackie: This is the time of year when I read the Travel Section of the Sunday paper. I just want to go away from gritty snow, brown yards and come back to Spring. Well, there are no tickets on the shelf this year so Phyllis and I are taking a trip to the city created by Ezra Jack Keats. And why not? This month, this year marks his one-hundredth birthday.

As our travel guide we’re taking The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (Yale University Press, 2011), written by Claudia Nahsen to coincide with The Snowy Day’s 50th anniversary and the showing of many of his works at the Jewish Museum, New York

Last Stop on Market StreetI’ve been thinking of Keats since I read Last Stop on Market Street, this year’s Newbery Award winner, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Robinson’s wonderful depictions of the urban landscape and the text’s suggestion that beauty is all around us, reminded me of Keats’s city scenes. Often they are set in his childhood home in Depression Era Brooklyn but enhanced with Keats’s brilliant collages, sketches, and jazzy palette.

A bit about his life, which I learned from Nahsen’s beautiful book: Jacob Ezra Katz was born in New York, on March 11, 1916. He was the youngest of three children born to immigrant parents in a “loveless marriage.” He grew up in a family marked by strife and unhappiness. He felt invisible as a child and believed “’life was measured by anguish.’” (Nahsen,p. 5). Art saved him. And in his art he gave life and validity to the streets he remembered from his childhood and to the kids, often invisible to society, who live on those streets.

The Snowy DayPhyllis: And up until publication of A Snowy Day, the first full-color picture book to feature an African American protagonist, those kids were virtually invisible in picture books as well. I especially love how Keats makes us see the city and the children and grown-ups who live in it with fresh eyes—his art includes graffiti, trashcans, and the struggles and celebrations of childhood. Nahsen quotes Keats: “Everything in life is waiting to be seen!” While some people criticized Keats, a white writer, for writing about black characters in The Snowy Day, the poet Langston Hughes wished he had “grandchildren to give it [the book] to.” Keats felt the criticisms deeply but continued to tell and illustrate the stories in his world “waiting to be seen.”

LouieJackie: Keats wrote and illustrated twenty-two books in his career. The ones I know are just as fresh, just as in tune with the lives of children as they were when he wrote them. We all know Peter of A Snowy Day, Peter’s Chair, A Letter to Amy. But Keats’s Louie is not quite as familiar. Louie is a quiet, kid who hardly ever speaks. But when he sees the puppet Gussie (Keats’s mother’s name) at Susie and Roberto’s puppet show, he stands up and yells “Hello!, Hello! Hello!” Susie and Roberto decide to have Gussie ask Louie to sit down so they can get on with the show. After the show they bring Gussie out so Louie can hold the puppet. Then the boy goes home, eventually sleeps and dreams he is falling and kids are laughing at him. When he wakes up, his mother tells him someone slipped a note under the door—“Go outside and follow the long green string.” At the end of the green string is—Gussie! There is so much to love about this story—a sensitive portrayal of a child who is somehow different, gets laughed at, yelled at by some kids; two kids, Susie and Roberto, who treat Louie with great kindness; and a hopeful ending.

Nahsen says: “…neglected characters, who had hitherto been living in the margins of picture books or had simply been absent from children’s literature take pride of place in Keats’s oeuvre.” She quotes from his unpublished autobiography: “When I did my first book about a black kid I wanted black kids and white kids to know that he’s there.” So it is with Louie. Keats reminds readers that the quiet kids, the kids who march to a different drum, the kids who live behind the broken doors, or on broken-down buses and can only have a cricket for a pet (Maggie and the Pirate) are there.

Maggie and the PiratePhyllis: Just as Keats portrays the real lives of kids who live in buses or city apartments without “even any steps in front of the door to sit on,” he doesn’t shy away from the small and large griefs and troubles of childhood. In Maggie and the Pirate, Maggie’s pet cricket, taken by a boy who admires the cricket’s cage, accidentally drowns in a river. Maggie and her friends hold a cricket funeral, and when the “pirate,” a boy who didn’t mean for the cricket to die but wanted the cage “real bad,” brings Maggie the cage with a new cricket, the children

                “all sat down together.
                Nobody said anything.
                They listened to the new cricket singing.
                Crickets all around joined in.”

Tragedies and consolation in the death of a cricket—a world seen through children’s eyes.

The Trip, Louie's Search, Regards to the Man in the Moon

Jackie: Keats came back to Louie with three other books and used this character to help him present some of the other problems of childhood—The Trip (1978), Louie’s Search (1980), and Regards to the Man in the Moon (1981).

The Trip tells us that Louie and his Mom move to a new neighborhood. Louie’s Search takes place after Louie has moved to a new neighborhood. “’What kind of neighborhood is this?’ thought Louie. “Nobody notices a kid around here.” He puts on a paper sack hat and paints his nose red and goes out for a walk. Eventually he picks up an object which has fallen off a junk wagon and so encounters the scary junkman Barney. Barney is huge and thinks Louie has stolen this object. “’Come back, you little crook,’ Barney bellowed.” They go to Louie’s house where Barney tells his Mom, “Your son’s a crook!’”

What Louie had found was a music box. When he holds it the box makes music. When he drops it, it stops. Barney decides to give the music box to Louie and stays for tea with Louie and his mom. It’s the beginning of a wonderful relationship that ends with a wedding and Louie finding the Dad he hoped for.

The Trip, Jennie's Hat, Dreams

Phyllis: Another thread throughout Keats’ work is the power of imagination. Louie in The Trip imagines a plane flying him to his old neighborhood. Jennie in Jennie’s Hat imagines a beautiful hat instead of the plain one her aunt has sent, and the birds, who she feeds daily, swoop down and decorate her hat with leaves, pictures, flowers (paper and real), colored eggs, a paper fan, and a pink valentine. In Dreams, Roberto imagines (or does it really happen?) that when a paper mouse he has made tumbles from his windowsill, its shadow “grew bigger—and bigger—and BIGGER” until it scared off the dog terrorizing his friend’s kitten on the sidewalk below.

Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-book MakerWe haven’t really even talked about his art and his brilliant use of collage and color. Just as Keats’s books celebrate the power of the imagination, Anita Silvey says that Keats took “absolute joy in the creative process.” We can share that joy in his books in stories and art that recognize that everyone needs to be seen, everyone has a place, and everyone, joyously, matters.

Jackie: Brian Alderson in Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-Book Maker writes that in The Snowy Day Keats “came home to his proper place: a colorist celebrating the hidden lives of the city kids.” I would add that that can be said for most of his works. And we are the richer for it.

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My Seneca Village

by Marsha Qualey

My Seneca Village
by Marilyn Nelson
Namelos, 2015

My Seneca Village cover

I’m going to begin with a disclaimer that is also a bit o’ bragging. I’ve had the good fortune to meet and work with Marilyn Nelson (A Wreath for Emmett Till, Snook Alone, How I Discovered Poetry). I’ve stayed up late and sipped wine and talked with her, spent a day escorting her to school visits where she wowed elementary students; she once supped at my table. I also had the good fortune to hear some of the poems in My Seneca Village when the book was a work in progress.

So, obviously I was predisposed to like it. I was not prepared, however, for how quickly and completely I fell in love.

The book opens with Nelson’s “Welcome,” which includes a succinct history of Seneca Village, “Manhattan’s first significant community of African American property owners,” that was founded in 1825. The village was short-lived: “By 1857, everyone would have been forced to move, and Seneca Village would be completely erased by the creation of Central Park.”

41 poems are at the heart of the book. Each was inspired by a name and “identifying label” Nelson found in census records. Presented in chronological order, the poems span thirty-two years; several of the characters reappear, maturing and changing along with the village. For the first reading, it’s beneficial to read the poems in order, even if a quick glance at a table of contents that reveals such titles as “Miracle in the Collection Plate” or “Pig on Ice” tempts you to skip ahead.

Equally important are the one-page scene-setting prose descriptions that preface each poem. Were My Seneca Village ever to be an image-illustrated book, I’d wager not even the finest of our picture book artists could animate the characters and setting as well as the author’s language; it would be akin to breaking a spell.

Seneca Village Project; Google Earth; Photo: City Metric

  Central Park West is the street bordering the park in the right hand image. Seneca Village Project; Google Earth; Photo: City Metric                                          

Historical footnotes accompany several of the poems. Those and the excellent concluding author’s note, in which Nelson explains the poetic forms and rhyming techniques she used, remind the reader that the literary mural unfolding in her hands is the result of history, imagination, and hard and intentional work.

This is a book for all ages, but, oh, what a terrific book to read aloud or simply make available to young readers (though I should warn any interested teacher that there is one poem that might trigger PG-13-ish questions or comments; I won’t mention it by name because I don’t want anyone reading ahead, but it includes the lovely compound noun “pleasure-purveyors”). 

Seneca Village is an almost-lost world.  With My Seneca Village, Marilyn Nelson brings that world near in time and close to home.

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A Trip to the Art Museum

by Vicki Palmquist

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure!  

Arlo’s Artrageous Adventure!

David LaRochelle
Sterling Children’s Books, 2013

When Arlo’s grandmother drags him to the art museum, he can’t imagine how he’ll be interested. Something odd catches his eye and he soon realizes the paintings have things to say that surprise and delight him—and the reader. Fun and quirky, with illustrations that will make you smile and flaps to lift that will reveal nuances in much the same way you discover something new in a painting each time you look at it … this is a good choice to prepare a child for a trip to the museum.

Art Dog  

Art Dog

Thacher Hurd
HarperCollins, 1996

When the moon is full, Arthur Dog, security guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art becomes Art Dog, a masked artist painting masterpieces. When an art heist occurs, Arthur must find the true criminals. Your readers will have fun recognizing the works of Pablo Poodle, Henri Mutisse, and Vincent Van Dog.

Behind the Museum Door  

Behind the Museum Door:
Poems to Celebrate the Wonder of Museums

Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed.
illus by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Harry N. Abrams, 2007

An ideal read-aloud to prepare for a  class trip, this collection of poetry will be useful when discussing art and artists. The poems are energetic and informative while Dressen-McQueen’s illustrations do an admiral job of visually representing each poem.

Chasing Vermeer  

Chasing Vermeer

Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 2004

Petra and Calder, 11-year-olds, become friends when they team up to solve the theft of a Vermeer painting which was en route to a museum in Chicago, where they live. The thief leaves clues in the newspaper and our clever duo work hard to solve the puzzles and mysteries that result. Your readers will learn about art while playing detective.

Dog's Night  

Dog’s Night

Meredith Hooper
illus by Alan Curless
Frances Lincoln, 2006

With a setting at London’s National Gallery, this is a tale of that one night a year when the dogs in the museum’s paintings are set free to come to life and play. A good way to introduce young people to fine art.

Eddie Red Undercover  

Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

Marcia Wells, illus by Marcos Calo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

Edmund, an 11-year-old boy with a photographic memory and a talent for drawing, is hired by the NYPD to help them look for thieves planning a major art heist. Filled with humor, interesting characters, and a lot of clues to a satisfying mystery.

Framed  

Framed

Frank Cottrell Boyce
HarperCollins, 2006

When Dylan’s father leaves because their business, Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel, is faltering, Dylan’s family tries to improve their circumstances. At the same time, paintings from the National Gallery are being moved to storage near Dylan’s Welsh town. Filled with art history and colorful, charismatic characters, this book is sure to hook readers.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 1970

A classic in which Claudia plans carefully for a week’s stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to break the monotony of her life. She invites her younger brother, James, because he has money. A new sculpture in the museum is possibly a marble angel created by Michelangelo, but no one knows for certain. Claudia and James are determined to help solve the mystery.

 

Going to the Getty  

Going to the Getty

Vivian Walsh
illus by J. Otto Seibold
J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997

The creators of Olive, the Other Reindeer have created a picture book that introduces young visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, including artwork, gardens, and behind-the-scenes work spaces.

Katie and the Sunflowers  

Katie and the Sunflowers

James Mayhew
Orchard Books, 2001

When Katie visits the museum, it’s an adventure indeed! She finds she can reach into the paintings, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, while other paintings come to life. There are a number of Katie books in which she learns more about fine art, but this particular title features Gaugin and Cezanne, the Post-Impressionists. Back matter helps elucidate more information in a friendly way.

Masterpiece  

Masterpiece

Elise Broach
illus by Kelly Murphy
Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2008

An excellent mystery weaving together the world of art and the world of art theft. Marvin is a beetle who lives under the sink in James’ apartment. Marvin has a marvelous talent for drawing in miniature. So marvelous that his drawings become a media sensation … for which James receives the credit. Art forgery is required but the friendship between Marvin and James, neither of whom can speak to the other, is tested.

Matthew's Dream  

Matthew’s Dream

Leo Lionni
Random House, 1995

When Matthew the mouse goes on a field trip to the art museum with his class, he is overcome with the beauty and power of the artwork hanging there. Inspired, he returns to his dusty and uninspired attic and creates art with things he’s never recognized as having beauty, creating paintings “filled with the shapes and colors of joy.”

Mrs Brown on Exhibit  

Mrs. Brown on Exhibit and Other Museum Poems

Susan Katz
illus R.W. Alley
Simon & Schuster, 2002

A book of poetry is written in the children’s own voices about their exuberant teacher, Mrs. Brown. She loves field trips to art exhibits and other exotic museums. A good book to show the breadth of collections encompassed by museums.

Museum  

Museum

Susan Verde
illus by Peter H. Reynolds
Harry N. Abrams, 2013

On a visit to the museum, a young girl reacts with differing emotions to each painting she sees, expressing herself with movement and sound and facial expressions. Drawn in a cartoon style, this book will help kids move beyond that feeling of reverence that museums sometimes inspire to examine the works for a personal connection.

Museum ABC  

Museum ABC

New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
Little Brown, 2002

An alphabet book introducing children to the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Apple and Degas’ ballerinas. It works well as a discussion starter about art and as a guide to the museum’s treasures.

Museum Book  

Museum Book: a Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections

Jan Mark
illus Richard Holland
Chronicle Books, 2007

There are anecdotes, historical facts, and invitations galore in this book to look at museums from different perspectives. Top-notch.

Museum Trip  

Museum Trip

Barbara Lehmann
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006

When a boy gets separated from his class on a field trip to a museum, wondrous things happen when he stops to tie his shoe and gets separated from his class. He goes on an adventure that will have readers asking, “Is that real?” Well, look for clues in the illustrations. It’s a wordless book, so your children will have an opportunity to tell the story in their own way.

Norman the doorman  

Norman the Doorman

Don Freeman
Penguin, 1959

In a book that has not aged, a dormouse is a doorman at the Majestic Museum of Art. He leads tours of small creatures to marvel in the paintings and sculptures stored in the museum’s basement. Inspired by a competition, Norman creates his own entry out of mousetraps set to catch him by the Museum guard. Filled with puns both verbal and visual, this is a must-have for your collection.

Seen Art?  

Seen Art?

Jon Scieszka
illus by Lane Smith
Viking Books, 2005

In a quirky play on words, the narrator is looking for his friend Art, but he’s directed to the Museum of Modern Art by a lady who thinks he’s looking for … art. While continuing to look for his friend, he encounters paintings by Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Klee, and more. A humorous way to approach fine art.

Shape Game  

Shape Game

Anthony Browne
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003

In an inspirational, autobiographical picture book, Anthony Browne shares his family’s visit to the Tate Museum in London that changed his way of looking at art. He examines actual paintings hanging in the Tate in a manner that encourages the reader to look more intentionally at art. The Shape Game is a family tradition, one that Anthony’s mother shares with him on the way home from the museum.

Speeding Down the Spiral  

Speeding Down the Spiral: an Artful Adventure

Deborah Goodman Davis
illus by Sophy Naess
Life in Print, 2012

A somewhat longer picture book that frames a look at artwork in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City with a visit by a bored girl, her father, and her baby brother in a stroller. When the stroller gets away from her and heads down the spiral, a group of people give chase … and look at the artwork along the way!

Squeaking of Art  

Squeaking of Art: the Mice Go to the Museum

Monica Wellington
Dutton, 2000

Using reproductions that look somewhat like the original works of art, this book teaches the vocabulary and concepts that are so helpful when one visits a museum.

Under the Egg  

Under the Egg

Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Dial Books, 2014

In this novel, 13-year-old Theo inherits a painting after her grandfather dies unexpectedly. Isolated by poverty and the lack of a responsible adult, Theo gains friends as she attempts to figure out if the painting is one of Raphael’s and why her grandfather had it. It’s a charming book with a riveting mystery and fast-paced action.

Visiting the Art Museum  

Visiting the Art Museum

Laurene Krasny Brown
illus by Marc Brown
Dutton, 1986

When a young family goes to a museum, there is a great deal of complaining and expectations of boredom. Instead they are drawn in by work ranging from Renoir, Pollack, Cezanne, Picasso, and Warhol. Reproductions by Marc Brown of those famous paintings make this book accessible by younger and older children.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum  

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum

Jacqueline P. Weitzman
illus by Robin Preiss Glasser
Dial Books, 1998

When a young girl and her grandmother visit the museum, the guard tells them she can’t take her yellow balloon in with her. He ties it to a railing. The two museum visitors view works of wart while the yellow balloon is untied by a pigeon to float through and explore New York City, often in parallel adventures.

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Give me a good mystery

Summertime is synonymous with reading for me.

My grandmother kept a light blue blanket by the back door so I could spread it out under the elm tree and dissolve into stories. Sometimes a lemonade, sometimes a piece of watermelon … but always a book. Sometimes a friend would sit next to me absorbed in a story of their own but most often it was just me, the birds, the sounds of summer, and a hardcover book.

I was reminded of that blanket under the tree this weekend when we were in Somerset, Wisconsin. We had to be somewhere at 11 am but we were early. We had brought books with us—of course—and we sat under a tree reading.

Eddie Red UndercoverFor me, it was Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile. Reading mysteries is a passion and a comfort for me. This book by Marcia Wells, with integral illustrations by Marcos Calo, swept me in and connected me to the girl who read during her summers, as many books as they’d let her check out of the library.

Eddie Red lives in New York City with a dad who’s been downsized from the library and a mother who’s a real estate agent. Although he’s been attending Senate Academy, a school for gifted students, his family’s financial duress puts him in a state of anxiety over not being able to afford tuition next year. He likes his school but he realizes he won’t see his best friend, Jonah, anymore. Jonah is brilliant but he’s challenged by hyperactivity and a number of medical conditions … all of which make him a perfect sidekick.

You see, Edmund Lonnrot, our hero, is a 12-year-old with a photographic memory and a startling ability to draw detailed, lifelike portraits of people he has seen recently. When Edmund and his dad are drawn into a dangerous situation in an alley, Edmund is later able to draw the criminals for the police. It turns out these particular bad guys are part of the Picasso Gang, internationally-wanted art thieves. The police hire Edmund as a police sketch artist, code name Eddie Red, to observe the comings and goings of people on Museum Mile in NYC, any of whom could be a disguised art thief.

Plausibility? Well, let’s just say that the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” is apropos. I was willing to overlook the NYPD hiring a twelve-year-old for a stakeout as farfetched  and get completely involved in Edmund’s and Jonah’s story, a chess game of a plot, and Edmund’s likeable sense of humor. The author does a good job of making Eddie’s talents feel universally adoptable—if only we had a Jonah to give us that extra oomph in the mystery-solving arena.

Eddie Red Undercover - Marcos Calo illustratorCalo’s portraits are a part of the plot, essential to the story. They’re as full of character as the author’s story. At the end of the book Eddie Red offers advice on how to draw a portrait. That’s perfection because I found myself itching to pick up a pencil and draw the people around me while I was solving the mystery alongside Edmund.

It’s an engaging story, perfect for reading any time, but especially satisfying on a summer afternoon.

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That’s Some Egg

by Vicki Palmquist

Under the EggIn Under the Egg, Theodora Tenpenny begins her story when her beloved grandfather, Jack, is hit by a taxi … and dies. Outside their 200-year-old Manhattan townhome, Jack whispers to Theo to “look under the egg.” Dealing with her grief, but desperate because she and her head-in-the-clouds mother have no income, Theo tries to figure out what her grandfather meant. She’s fairly certain he’s trying to provide for them, but did he have to be so mysterious?

What unravels is a tense mystery of art “theft,” Jack’s soldiering in World War II, suspicious adults who become altogether too interested, and a new best friend, Bodhi, who aids and abets Theo’s harebrained, but ultimately brilliant, schemes.

Under the Egg is a fast-paced, intelligent, learning-about-art-history while saving the world sort of book, not unlike Indiana Jones or Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. I stayed up all night to read it, unable to rest until the mystery was solved.

On Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s website, there are wonderful resources. When I finished Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, the first thing I did was find a painting of The Lord’s Supper to see if he was right. Fitzgerald saves us the hunt. There’s a map of all the places Theo visits in New York City. There’s more about Raphael, with thoughtfully provided paintings that link to fascinating stories from the painter’s life. There’s a page devoted to separating fact from fiction. And more.

Readers who love adventurous romps, who like to puzzle through a mystery, or enjoy visiting art museums will adore this book.

 

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