Here is a very simple recipe for a great little book:
Take about two dozen great paintings.
Choose paintings which all have one thing in common — someone reading.
Add a very few words that describe the reading that is happening in the painting.
Leave well enough alone!
That’s the recipe for success that Bob Raczka follows in his book Artful Reading.
Raczka gives us gorgeous, nice-sized reproductions of great paintings from folks such as Vermeer, Cassatt, Van Gogh, Durer, Fragonard, Matisse, Renoir, Hopper, and Picasso. He has chosen a great variety of styles, and has included some very famous paintings as well as some lesser known works. Yet, each painting features someone engaged in reading.
Each page contains a painting and a simple, corresponding phrase. The phrases follow one another in rhyming patterns: Read the news. Or read a globe. Read in a dress. Or read in your robe. Each print is labeled with artist’s name, name of the painting, year of the work, and where it hangs.
At the end of the book, thumbnail pictures of each painting are paired with a few words about the artist, and when possible, the place of reading in his/her life.
This is just a lovely way to look at art, to see something as familiar as reading and books in these artworks which seems to bring the paintings right into our everyday sphere a bit, and to elevate the common joy of reading across the centuries.
Raczka has a number of other nice volumes introducing art via various themes —
–unusual, and very clever, pairings of paintings;
— art works that appeal to all five senses;
— very ordinary things that artists have chosen to paint; and so on.
I really like the way he chooses art, displays it in clever, delightful themes which make it accessible to children, and then steps out of the way to let the art speak for itself.