Prestel Publishing are an independent publisher of books on art history and design however they also publish quality books for children. Today I would like to share two rather lovely books which combine both of these specialities.
Ella in the Garden of Giverny by Daniel Fehr illustrated by Monika Vaicenaviciene
This beautiful picture book about Claude Monet, providing a child’s eye view of the famous artist and his life, is exquisitely presented and well researched.
It tells the story of Ella, the daughter of an artist, who sneaks into Monet’s garden, watching him and drawing him in secret. One day the old man who “looks funny with his long beard and hat” notices Ella and calls her over to look at her sketchbook. This sharing of a love of drawing and painting starts a conversation and Ella gradually develops a friendship with him. As Monet talks Ella, and the young reader, learn about the ideas behind Impressionism, his beautiful garden and the life of Monet himself. Just like Ella they will also learn the importance of perseverance and pursuing your dream even during difficulties.
Daniel Fehr skilfully weaves facts into this narrative so that it still feels like natural storytelling and this would be lovely to read aloud. It is conversational in tone, as the old man imparts the wisdom gained through experience. There is also a brief biography of Monet, a picture gallery and information about Giverny and the museums at the end of the book.
Monika Vaicenaviciene’s subtle illustrations are perfect for this story. She manages to interpret Monet’s gardens in a style reminiscent of the great artist’s work without ever appearing to be copying his paintings. It feels like a homage to his work and style. There is also a subtle difference between the delicate illustrations depicting Monet’s gardens and life at the time of Ella’s visit and those included conveying his earlier life and work. This is both a visually stunning and fascinating book. Although marketed at age 5+ I think this would also appeal to children in the upper junior age range.
Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits by Annette Roeder illustrations by Olaf Hajek
This stunning, large format book, the third in the series following Flower Power and Veggie Power, is an exploration of the world of fruit. Olaf Hajek’s vibrant and slightly surreal paintings are paired with fascinating text by Annette Roeder incorporating information, history and folklore.
Did you know that the science of fruit is called pomology? That the pomegranate was linked to the story of Helen of Troy? That Christopher Columbus received a pineapple as a gift? Within the first few pages of this book the reader has learned all of this and more. The text is immediately engaging and this book would appeal to a wide age range; there is something here for adult readers too. The presentation is extremely eye catching and for those not familiar with Hajek’s art, revelatory. Each painting is given a full page with text appearing opposite and this is most definitely a book to linger over. Sometimes the fruit appears to be being worn, either as a headdress, jewellery or part of an outfit. In other paintings an outsize melon is being sat upon by a couple while held aloft by others and a cheerful hedgehog carries a raspberry and blackberry along on his back . There are cultural references in both the art and the writing with links to Greek myths, the Bible, history and contemporary culture. Each description includes the country of origin of the particular fruit and other names it may be known by.
This would I think be a valuable book for use in the classroom being suitable for cross curricular work. There is a large amount of text on each page so perhaps a book to be shared by an adult with children who have not developed reading stamina. The colourful paintings alone would prompt discussion too.
Both of these beautiful books were published by Prestel Publishing in March and are available to purchase on their official website. I should like to thank Catherine Ward and the publishers for providing my review copies.