Friday, January 22, 2010

Look! Look! Look!

Picture courtesy: Marshall Cavendish
Artist/Illustrator: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace/Linda K. Friedlaender
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Age group: 4-8
Awards: -
Texas Mockingbird Award 2007-2008
- Kid’s Wings Award 2008

I judged Look! Look! Look! by the cover. It looked appealing, and it piqued my curiosity - what would three mice have to do with a painting of a royal lady? It was surprising to see the treasure it held inside and how much it appealed to my 4 year old, given that we haven’t read too many books on the topic before that. I had to post this review here when the art fever was still on.

Look! Look! Look! is about three mice, Kiki, Alexander and Kat, who find a postcard from an art museum addressed to the people living in the house. The card has a painting of Lady Clapton on it, the mice take it to their home to study it better, and in the process, introduce us to what to look for in a painting.

What I loved about this book

- The characters.
A kid looking at a painting with someone as a guide would have been something ordinary. But the characters here are little mice, and instead of having things pointed out to them, they discover it themselves. A mouse’s perspective adds that extra level of interest for a preschooler and sustains it throughout. I thought the use of mice had another neat perspective; most larger than life paintings hanging in museums would seem this way to little kids…like a postcard would feel to mice. The choice of the characters and how they talk through the painting is the key to hooking in the youngest reader.

- The text.
Short and sweet dialogues. There is a lot happening in the illustrations and the text wisely takes a back seat only to convey what is necessary. Anything more verbose and the young reader might have tuned out.

- The Illustrations.
Everything is in cut paper collage and the book gives an illusion of felt like texture. The illustrations work perfectly for this theme, because later in the book, the mice identify shapes in the painting, cut those out on paper and reconstruct the painting with just shapes. It blends in right with the existing illustration. The author/illustrator, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, in her blog writes about how she creates her illustration, it was nice to read a little about the work that goes behind her creations.

- A new perspective.
Art is all about perspective. Two pairs of eyes may not see the same thing, even one set of eyes would not see things the same way when looking at it from a different angle. The mice prove this point by using a frame and zooming in to one section; that’s when you really notice the little details on the lady’s beautiful silk gown – the patterns of flowers intertwined with vines. This has renewed my 4 yo’s interest in patterns and he points them out everywhere, and is thrilled that even his clothes have repeating stripes and checkers for patterns.

Just as you can notice little details, you can zoom out and break down something that looks complex with many elements into simple lines, and shapes. The mice walk us through each of these observations.

They deconstruct the painting into circles, kidney and raindrop shapes, and recreate many other characters with the pieces.

-Instructions to create a self portrait.
The book doesn't stop with telling you how to see other people's art, but encourages you to create your own. There are step by step instructions to create a postcard and add your self-portrait to it.

The only thing I’d have liked to see is a little history/background on the painting itself. It would have been nice to have that information in the index, for the benefit of the parent who has to answer a curious preschooler.

After reading this book, it is almost impossible to resist up markers, scissors, colorful construction paper and doing something with them. Also, a visit to the art museum might not seem as intimidating if we knew we weren’t the littlest ones to study paintings.

I believe the best books don’t end at the last page. They inspire you to observe, think and create something of your own. By that measure, Look! Look! Look! is a definite winner.


Artnavy said...

sounds very interesting- it is going on to my shopping list

Choxbox said...

wow k's mom!

Vibha said...

Great pick, would look for this one soon.

Tharini said...

wow! I love what you said about the best books not ending at the last page! Am looking for this one..

Meera Sriram said...

Kodi's Mom, you have very beautifully and intelligently presented the different attributes of the book that won you over, and why you recommend it. Kudos. I like the fact that it can serve as a precursor to a trip to the art museum - I know I need it:)

utbtkids said...

Awesome K's mom. I better place it in my amazon wish list.

utbtkids said...

Also linking this post in the art development in children series I am doing in my blog.

Sheela said...

Wow, you said it so well, KM, as always, love reading your presentations! This is one of *my* favorite books! Your review perfectly highlights the beauty of the book - I enjoyed the way you broke it down and showed the various layers/aspects that make this book a treasure... plus, your note at the end:'They inspire you to observe, think and create something of your own.', So true! Thanks, KM!!

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