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Marguerite Makes a Book Hardcover – October 28, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
In his first book for children, art historian Robertson imparts a wealth of information on 15th-century book illumination via a sweet if somewhat hackneyed story. Papa Jacques is the most admired book illustrator in all of Paris, but he is growing old; his shaking hands and poor vision have delayed his work on an important prayer book. And when his glasses break, daughter Marguerite realizes that she must be the one to complete Papa's work. Robertson's descriptions of the materials used in creating an illuminated manuscriptAanimal skins dried for parchment; goose feathers plucked for pens; madder root, parsley, saffron, vermilion and lapis lazuli mixed to make the vivid paints (shown in a four-page gatefold)Aare sandwiched into transparently didactic prose ("Lapis lazuli stone!... To think these came from over mountains and deserts, across rivers..."). Departing from the sly caricatures she created for Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Writers, etc. Hewitt offers realistic watercolors that give a lively sense of the bustling Paris of nearly 600 years ago. Best of all are the illuminated borders she creates for chapter openers, portraying the illustration style described in the text, and the judicious use of gold ink to set off her compositions and her projections of Marguerite's manuscript. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5-Careful attention to detail is demonstrated in this artful presentation of the story of a young French girl who carries on her father's book-painting tradition in 15th-century Paris. Papa Jacques is unable to complete a commissioned prayer book for his patron, Lady Isabelle. In four chapters, readers follow Marguerite as she assembles the needed materials: the parchment made from calfskin, the goose feathers used for pens, the eggs used for mixing paints, and apothecary roots and herbs for paint colors. Marguerite's ultimate success gains her the gratitude of her proud father and the attention of Lady Isabelle herself. The process of producing the vivid pigment used in manuscripts is described in a four-page center foldout. Brilliant gold highlights, originally produced by the delicate process of gluing gold leaf onto parchment, are reproduced in luminous decorated margins and page frames. Oversized illustrations are richly hued and realistically rendered; page color simulates parchment. This elegant picture book provides a wealth of educational detail and successfully conveys the spirit and beauty of medieval manuscripts. It's a useful and attractive addition to studies of medieval times and to the art of early manuscripts.
Mary Ann Carcich, Suffolk County Community College Library, Riverhead, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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So this morning we dressed in our best approximation of 1400's French medieval dress (think handkerchief on head, wool shawl, cloth nappy tied as apron). We collected parsley from the garden and soot from the chimney to make our paints, just like Marguerite. We also used tea, beetroot and calendula. After preparing with the mortar and pestle these were strained then mixed with beaten egg white.
We used scissors to sharpen feathers into quills after a try with a knife wasn't very successful. We used some oyster shells from our shell collection and voila! My daughter was able to role play being an illuminator in medieval France!
She spent the rest of the morning `illuminating' with amazing concentration and when it was time to go to an appointment she wanted to `stay in role'. So we did. There was a man paying who was obviously intrigued by our get up - let's face it, I had a handkerchief on my head and was wearing a long green velvet dress! Turns out he spoke French, had been to Paris, and knew some history - spoke to us in French (ouch!) - tres bon!
A book that captures our interest and imagination like this is definitely a star in our eyes. I so wish there were more books like this! My daughter says regarding Marguerite: `She did interesting things - like making the paint' and `her clothes were different and olden day'.
Highly recommended especially for children interested in art, history, book making, architecture, fashion, social classes, France, technology and especially girls for the strong female lead. Age - very wide - I've found this book listed under `Sophisticated Picture Books 8-12 yrs'- I think our experience show's how much younger ages can find intense interest in this book. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
If you're really keen, email the publisher like I did to say: WE Loved This Book - Please Do More ! I'm sure Getty Museum would love to hear this from you!
More than just being about illuminated manuscripts, which this books portrays in great detail, the author and artist convey daily life in Paris, France at that time period from shopping, what the houses were like, a map of the town, and even the relationships between the different classes.
Our absolute favorite part of the book are they pages where they describe how Marguerite makes the paints. My kids are not typically interested in such fine historical details, but the book drew all of us in.
I highly recommend this book, even if you aren't studying manuscripts in the Middle Ages. My children are 7 and 11 years old and both enjoyed it.