From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3–In this compelling picture book, Gerstein invites children to travel back in time more than 30,000 years to a cave in what is now southern France. Using thickly applied acrylics and rough strokes of black ink, he creates a prehistoric setting complete with a community of early humans, giant woolly mammoths, and one inquisitive caveboy. Told in second-person narrative, the text asks readers to put themselves in the mindset of the boy surrounded by wide-open skies, plush drifting clouds, and a great diversity of flora and fauna. A true artist, the child sees more than the surface appearance of his world. Gerstein's illustrations of rocks, clouds, and shadows cleverly conceal animal shapes that both readers and the protagonist are compelled to discover. At first, the other cave dwellers are dismissive. Then the youngster does something unprecedented: he picks up a burnt stick and begins drawing on the walls. For his fellow early humans, this first taste of art is scary and disconcerting. “Magic!” the boy's father exclaims. It is, in fact, the world's first drawing. An author's note provides background on the real-life drawings in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave and the discovery of a human footprint belonging to an eight-year-old child. Pair this title with Emily Arnold McCully's The Secret Cave (Farrar, 2010) to extend the lesson and learn about the 1940 discovery of the caves in southern France.–Kiera Parrott, Darien Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
“Imagine you were born before the invention of drawing more than thirty thousand years ago.” A boy with shaggy red hair dressed in jeans, his back to the viewer, becomes a boy with shaggy red hair dressed in animal skins on the next page. He lives in a cave with a large multigenerational family and spends his time watching deer and bears and looking at clouds. He alone sees shapes where others see, for instance, just a stone. A stare down with a woolly mammoth pushes the boy to recreate its massive shape on the cave wall. And though his family at first fears the drawing’s magic, before long they’re drawing, too. An author’s note introduces French cave drawings, and notes no one knows who made the world’s first drawing. Despite the disclaimer, however, many will see this as fact as well as fancy, in part because of the emphatic audience-directed narrative. The line, acrylic, and colored-pencil art, which fills up each spread, has the buoyant feeling of discovery and is clever in the way it turns imaginings into pictures. A way to think about the start of art. Grades K-2. --Ilene Cooper