Honestly love Quentin Blake so much and talking about art with a child is an AMAZING exercise.
This book provides a whimsical and useful entry to understand the visual language of paintings. While illustrator Blake's title is "Tell Me A Picture" he shows us how it is asking questions of the painting that is the true key to engaging in a visual narrative. I like how the book is designed, with Blake's sketched characters introducing the painter's name, followed by the artwork, then the characters discussing what they have seen. This would be a great book for kids and adults before a museum visit to practice this form of inquiry. The artworks in the book range from Italian masters like Ucello to modern American painters like Edward Hopper. I was delighted to discover artist Gabrielle Vincent in this book. Overall, a lighthearted and engaging entry into the world of art history.
I have mixed feelings about this book.
I love the idea (introduce children to the joys of art) and presentation. First, Quentin Blake uses drawn children to introduce a painting, holding a banner with the artist's name and perhaps props and costumes related to the picture. Second, a picture is displayed without any info, giving children and adults a chance to think about what's happening, make their own assumptions about the story/characters depicted, and just take time with art without any suggestions or judgements delivered in advance. Then, Blake's playful drawings ask questions and make comments about the picture and a little detail of the painting is blown up, giving children a chance to laugh and notice more things about the picture. Appropriately, there is more information on each picture at the end of the book for anyone wanting to know and look up more about the artist/story/painting.
I also like that Blake chose relatively unknown paintings so that neither children nor their parents had set views about them.
I love very eclectic types of art, so I was surprised by my disappointment with the pictures Blake chose. I only really liked about a third of them. I wish Blake had chosen more interesting (and more aesthetically appealing) artworks. Maybe he was limited because he had to find an artist for each letter of the alphabet at the National Gallery in London. If that was an issue, he could have included more book illustrations (the ones he chose which were highlights of the book for me), photographs, prints, reliefs, etc. If you want to get kids excited about art, it shouldn't be just about the story; it should also be the joy of seeing something beautifully designed/created.
So 4.5 for the idea and presentation, barely 3 for the artworks chosen.
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