September 24, 2012
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Amanda Hall
No one told Henri Rousseau that he could paint. In fact, he already had a job as a toll booth operator. But the forty year-old had a dream. He bought canvases, paints and brushes and started to paint.
He painted because he loved nature. Because he couldn’t afford lessons, he studied on his own. He studied the paintings of other artists. He studied photographs to learn anatomy. He didn’t study the rules about painting, he simply painted.
But the art critics hated his work.
Not to worry, Rousseau simply had to paint and that’s what he kept right on doing. Eventually, his work caught the attention of several very young artists. These young artists were also rule breakers and they disagreed with the critics. In fact, one of them, Pablo Picasso, holds a banquet in Rousseau’s honor.
Markel’s straightforward text brings Henri Rousseau to life for a new band of young art and nature lovers, and isn’t that appropriate since that it what Rousseau himself was? A lover of art and nature.
Amanda Hall’s watercolor and acrylic paintings duplicate the simplicity and vigor of Rousseau’s art. In fact, she does it so well that they immediately brought to mind several of Rousseau’s paintings that I had seen long ago.
Not sure this book is right for your young reader? It is amazing just how inspirational Rousseau’s story is. Here is a man who did not give up on his dreams even when the critics told him to stop. They asked him if he painted with his feet. They compared his work to that of cavemen. This is definitely a man that children will identify with and, who knows, he may click with you, the adult reader, as well.
A vibrant, engaging read about a great artist.