Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Take This Book to Paris!

Here's a little gem that satisfies my love for sweet, impish children, I Spy books, cheeky/intelligent writers, and Paris: Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock (no, not the geneticist Barbara McClintock — although it would be cool to see what kind of kid's book she could have come up with! — but the illustrator Barbara McClintock).

Set in the early 20th century Paris, Adele meets her brother at the end of his school day and the pair head for home. But theirs is a circuitous route -- luckily for the reader. We visit a street market, the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, the patisserie Maison Cador and more Parisian sites. Along the way, Simon loses something at every turn (thus the I Spy or Where's Waldo part of the book). McClintock adds in lots of great touches for those who pore over the pictures. One example is Miss Clavell, Madeline and the gals traipsing through the Jardin des Plantes. Her end notes on each spread also reveal some surprising gems -- she's hidden several references to art and artists, such as the "groupings of people based on famous pictures by the nineteenth-century artists Honore Daumier and the early-twentieth-century photograph Eugene Atget" scattered in the street market image. Yikes! Daumier and Atget — nothing like a good kids book to send you on a Google search! In the Louvre we see the artists Edouard Vuillard, Odilion Redon, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt helping Simon search for his lost crayons. (Well, okay, I didn't recognize them, but they're there.)

Adele and Simon is a lovely story on its own, but the addition of these details adds another dimension for a parent, teacher or librarian who's willing to take the time to search out more details on these artists. The text is simple, yet satisfying for a read-aloud:

Adele picked up her little brother, Simon, at school.
Simon was waiting by the door.
He had his hat and gloves and scarf and sweater,
his coat and knapsack and books and crayons,
and a drawing of a cat he'd made that morning.
"Simon, please try not to lose anything today," said Adele.
Simon said, "I'll try."

Now ... if I could just think of a writing project that requires a trip to Paris to complete.

No comments: