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The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau Hardcover – June 11, 2012
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*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
Amanda Hall has illustrated a number of picture books, including The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Eerdmans), which won the PEN/Steven Kroll Award. Amanda lives in England. Visit her website at www.amandahall-illustration.com.