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The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau Hardcover – June 11, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The career of artist Henri Rousseau gets a wonderfully child-friendly treatment in a book that captures both his personality and the essence of his pictures. Forty-year-old toll collector Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist, despite the fact that not a single person has ever told him he is talented. Yet obstacles don’t stand in his way. Nature is his muse and observation is his teacher. An excited Rousseau waits to hear what the critics say after his first exhibit. It’s nothing good. Still, he continues turning out lush paintings filled with flora and fauna, and the critics continue panning him. But other, younger, artists are taking notice; by the end of his life, Rousseau is starting to be recognized as a master. Even though the main character is a middle-aged man, children will be drawn to the story of someone whom no one believes in becoming a star anyway. Markel’s text has a sweetness and simplicity that allows children to understand the story’s underpinnings, giving them someone to root for. Initially, though, they’ll be drawn by Hall’s rich pictures, sometimes offered with a sly wink, which are a credible homage to Rousseau’s naive style. Kids will get a sense of the colors and vibrancy of the originals as well as their strength. While it would have been nice to see reproductions of Rousseau’s originals in the book, this exciting introduction should lead children to seek them out. Grades K-3. --Ilene Cooper

About the Author

Michelle Markel is the author of many children's books, including

(Tricycle/Random House) and

(Henry Holt). Michelle lives in California. Visit her website at

.

Amanda Hall has illustrated many books for children, including

(Candlewick),

(Frances Lincoln), and

(Eerdmans). Amanda lives in England. Visit her website at
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Product Details

  • Lexile Measure: 800L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 34 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (June 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802853641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802853646
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 10.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michelle is the acclaimed author of nonfiction picture books for children, including THE FANTASTIC JUNGLES OF HENRI ROUSSEAU, which won the 2013 PEN/Steven Kroll award for exceptional picture book writing, and BRAVE GIRL: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909, winner of the 2014 Jane Addams Award for Younger Readers, and the Bank Street College CBC Award for nonfiction. She lives with her family in West Hills, California.

You can find out more about Michelle by visiting her website at www.michellemarkel.com.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm not ashamed to say it, though perhaps I should be. Still, it's true. Though I grew up in the middle class with a good education and a stint at a liberal arts college there are huge gaping gaps in my knowledge that have consistently been filled in over the years by children's books. I know that I am not alone in this. When I worked in NYPL's Central Children's Room we had any number of regular adult patrons that would come in seeking children's books on a variety of different topics so that they could learn about them in a non-threatening fashion. At its best a children's book takes a complex subject and synthesizes it down to its most essential parts. Simple enough. But if you're dealing with a picture book biography, it then has to turn a human life in a cohesive (child friendly) story. No mean feat. So when I saw this picture book bio of the artist Henri Rousseau I was immediately arrested by its art. Then I sort of came to realize that when it came to the man himself, I knew nothing. Next to nothing. I may never win a Jeopardy round or a game of Trivial Pursuit but thanks to great books like this one I may someday attain the education of a seven-year-old. There are worse fates in the world. These days, seven-year-olds get all the good stuff.

Your everyday average forty-year-old toll collector doesn't usually drop everything to become a painter, yet that's exactly what one did back in the 19th century. His name was Henri Rousseau and though he never took an art course in his life (art lessons aren't exactly available on a toll collector's budget) he does his research, looks at art, sits himself down, and begins to paint. He's incredibly excited after his first big exhibition but his reviews say mostly "mean things" about his art.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lacamara on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are two things that make this book stand head and shoulders above many other works: the clear, evocative, concise writing AND the stunning, imaginative, lush illustrations. I found the subject matter intriguing and significant. Although I was quite familiar with the famous imagery of Henri Rousseau, there was so much about his life that I DIDN'T know before I read this wonderful book. I HIGHLY recommend it to parents, teachers, and art appreciators of all ages!

-- H A L

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Debnance at Readerbuzz on July 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Nobody thought Henri Rousseau could paint. Did that stop him? No, he painted on, past cruel remarks and vicious critiques and scathing reviews. On and on he paints. On and on he learns new things about painting. Do the critics change their minds? No, they continue to laugh at him, calling his paintings childish. Rousseau knows the critics are right, but he does not care. On and on he goes, painting, painting, painting. It is only at the very end of his life that people change their minds about him, and it is only now, a hundred years later, that his paintings hang in museums all over the world and people revere him as a great artist.

An inspiring true story that I found to be perfect for the young readers at my primary school. I can't wait to share this book with them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on November 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The life and art of French artist Henri Rousseau are vividly brought to life in a recent release by author Michelle Markel and illustrator Amanda Hall. Rousseau is best known for his post-impressionist paintings depicting jungle scenes, although he never left France. Rousseau, we learn from Markel's succinct yet poetic text, wants to be an artist, even though he is 40 years old, a toll collector, and has never had any art training. "Why? Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it's like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him."

With no money for art lessons, Rousseau studies the paintings at the Louvre, photographs, illustrations, animals at the zoo, and leaves, plants and flowers from the local botanical garden, where he is particularly enraptured by the tropical plants. Although his work is ridiculed by the art critics, Henri perseveres, spending all his money on art supplies and supplementing his income by giving music lessons. Although the art establishment continues to belittle his work, several younger artists, including the already well-known Picasso, eventually recognize his talent. Now, of course, his paintings are in museums world-wide, and he is recognized as an artistic genius.

The illustrations by Amanda Hall pay tribute to Rousseau's "primitive" style, with its flattened shapes, vivid colors, detailed leaves and plants, and unusual perspective. Many of the illustrations draw directly on Rousseau's paintings for inspiration, and adults will recognize some of his most famous works such as "Sleeping Gypsy." Even the endpapers echo Rousseau's easily recognizable style, with its jungle leaves, flowers, and animals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Lynne is Genius on December 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked this book up for my local library who had a "Giving Tree" request list and our family reads. A lot. My ten year old really liked the story- okay we read it before we gave it while in the parking lot- and I was really impressed with the illustrations. The coloring of the artwork is fantastic- sharp and bright pictures and a cool story about persistence and pursuing your dreams.
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