Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Library Find

We have really missed our library lately! We fell off our regular routine bandwagon a while ago but with the hot summer months coming, we are desperate to get back into the habit. Right now, all of us girls are on a Penderwicks kick. Sunshine is currently strolling with them down Gardam Street, Shortcake is just getting to know the four sisters, two bunnies and one very interesting boy and I have finished vacationing with them at Pointe Mouette.  This new third book is just as delightful as the others. I can't wait for them to read it!

I found this book by accident on the children's new acquisitions shelf and I just had to share it here. It's perfect for any child (or Mom) interested in art history (love it!) or even Dutch history. It called The Vermeer Interviews: Conversations with Seven Works of Art. Vermeer is one of my favorite artists. Seventeen years ago, I spent a week on my own traveling from Rome to Den Haag just to catch a glimpse of The Girl with the Pearl Earring as it was being restored. The author, Bob Raczka, has a wonderful understanding of the techniques of the man called The Painter of Light and helps the reader/viewer to study these works of art in a delightfully amusing way... by interviewing the subjects. The Professor read it and found it very interesting. He liked the way the author highlighted some details in the paintings that he might not have noticed on his own. If you get a chance to pick it up at your library, I highly recommend it! Oh and I'm delighted to discover that Mr. Raczka has written other books on art for children!

And I'd love to know what are your favorite art history or art study books for kids?

P.S. I have also read the purely speculative historical fiction novel about Vermeer called The Girl with a Pearl Earring and I did not care for it but that's just my opinion. I wish more people knew how little we actually know about his amazing painter and knew that this story is not based on fact. From the author herself:

Is Girl with a Pearl Earring a true story? To what extent is it based in fact?
It isn't a true story. No one knows who the girl is, or in fact who any of the people in his paintings are. Very little is known about Vermeer—he left no writings, not even any drawings, just 35 paintings. The few known facts are based on legal documents—his baptism, his marriage, the births of his children, his will. I was careful to be true to the known facts; for instance, he married Catharina Bolnes and they had eleven surviving children. Other facts are not so clear-cut and I had to make choices: he may or may not have lived in the house of his mother-in-law (I decided he did); he converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage but not necessarily because Catharina was Catholic (I decided he did); he may have been friends with the scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who invented the microscope (I decided he was). But there was a lot I simply made up.


  1. I can't wait to share the Penderwicks with my girls.

    Is The Vermeer Interviews aimed at kids or adults?

  2. Melanie,
    It's definitely for kids! At Amazon it says 9-12 but I don't see why it couldn't be read to younger children.

  3. Do you think it would hold a five year-old's attention? (And can I believe my little girl is going to be five tomorrow?!?!)

  4. Awww.... happy birthday to your sweet girl!

    I don't know... I guess it would depend on the five year old. It's written in dialogue style so funny voices might go a long way to holding her attention. There are also smaller pictures on each page of various things like Delft tiles, a letter written in Dutch to look at while the dialogue is being read. It is definitely more wordy than just a picture book but in the conversation, the author gives you things to hunt for in the painting.

    For example:

    Bob: How clever. I guess there really is beauty in the details. By the way, what is that wooden box on the floor behind you?

    MAID: That is a foot warmer. Filled with hot colas, it comes in quite handy during our cold Dutch winter. By the way, do you see the blue and gray tiles behind the foot warmer? Those were made here in Delft. In addition to being decorative, they protect the plaster walls from sweeping and mopping.

    Bob: Do you have a favorite detail in this painting?

    MAID: Well, since you ask, I do love the broken windowpane.

    Bob: Wow, I've seen this painting dozens of times and never noticed that before.

  5. Thanks, Charlotte, We'll check it out from the library and see what she thinks. At least she'll like the pictures and I can use the dialogues to guide our discussion even if we don't read the whole thing.

  6. It was a great starting point for introducing the kids to Vermeer. After reading about the yellow coat with the spotted fur trim on the Woman with a Pearl Necklace, The Professor went on a hunt in another Vermeer book I have for the four other paintings that that same coat shows up in.

  7. Awesome! Thanks for sharing the books. Especially, the Vermeer book. I'm putting on my wish list now. I, too, love art history. I took a class in high school and college as well. I didn't read the book, Girl With a Pearl Earring, but I saw the movie. I wasn't too impressed with the movie and wondered how much of it was true. I'm glad to hear that most of it was made up.

    As for what we have used for art appreciation with the kids, we have used with I feel is great success is Child Size Masterpieces (entire series set) by Aline D. Wolf

    And a picture book that we love and own is Hana in the Time of the Tulips written by Deborah Noyes and beautifully illustrated by Bagram Hatoulline. It's a gorgeous book. It's a nice introduction to Rembrandt.

  8. Charlotte,
    For those of us who have not been properly introduced to art -- have you any suggestions for learning about it ALONGSIDE our children? I truly want them to appreciate it -- and I don't even know how to do that myself! Thanks for any starting points or suggestions.

  9. We LOVE the Penderwicks here:)
    Check out I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Burton de Trevino, a slave who worked with Velazquez, great Spanish artist. Excellent living book.

  10. Janice,
    I can't recommend anything specific for art appreciation because I've never used anything specific. I've exposed my children to different works of art and talked with them about it. I've heard good things about Mommy, It's a Renoir, but again, I've never used it myself. I would say, start with the Old Masters or start with what you like, find out more about a work of art and share it with your children.

  11. We love Sister Wendy Beckett's The Story of Painting & the DVD series too. She is lovely.

  12. We've read the first Penderwicks and just ordered the other two. Thanks for sharing.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!