From Publishers Weekly
Based on imagined events during Bruegel's real-life two-year journey through mid 16th-century France and Italy, newcomer Shafer's luminous watercolor and pencil illustrations spill across the large-scale format with the vivacious humanity characteristic of the great Northern Renaissance painter. As in Bruegel's work, the pictorial settings surrounding the young artist are rich with dramas large and small. The narrative, conveyed through chatty diary entries, tells of thieving boys in the Alps and Ottoman soldiers battling in Reggio. Shafer thus drives home the idea that Bruegel lived and traveled among real people with all their frailties and foibles, characters and ideas that would continue to inform his work. Together, text and illustrations create a portrait of a place and time complete with the plague and the pope's private zoo as well as an introduction to an artist whose work and themes are highly accessible to children. Unfortunately, the 16 paintings and drawings by Bruegel, reproduced as a kind of postscript, are too small to do justice to the artist's genius; one double-page spread of The Wedding Banquet, for instance, would have conveyed Bruegel's magic more effectively than the miniatures assembled here. A lengthy author's note with considerable historical background rounds out this visually appealing evocation of the man behind the art. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6-An inviting illustrated chronicle of Bruegel's trip from Antwerp to Rome in the 16th century. The lively fictional diary entries report exciting events and provide a sense of the difficult times in which he lived. In the course of his journey, he encounters a Huguenot carrying straw for his own fiery execution, people suffering from a plague, a sea battle at Reggio, and even the smells of poverty. Very little is known about the subject's life, so Shafer imaginatively reconstructs the journey from the sometimes conflicting accounts that exist and from the artist's paintings and drawings. The use of the first person adds immediacy. Some entries have themes directly related to Bruegel's paintings, such as The Alchemist, The Beekeepers, and, perhaps his most famous image, The Hunters in the Snow. Shafer's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations perfectly capture the events of the engaging narrative. The biggest disappointment is the lack of source notes. Despite a detailed note that explains the lack of documentation about the painter's life, Shafer only refers to "my sources" and does not provide a bibliography. Otherwise, this is an appealing introduction to the painter, to the tradition of the artistic pilgrimage, and 16th-century life in general.
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Robin L. Gibson, Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.