The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

Book - 2012
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A child's biography of French artist Henri Rousseau, who spent his life as a toll collector, but created unheralded masterpieces in his spare time.
Publisher: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2012.
ISBN: 9780802853646
0802853641
Characteristics: 1 v. (unpaged) : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 23 x 27 cm.
Additional Contributors: Hall, Amanda - Illustrator

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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Nov 27, 2012

I remember having to learn about artists and composers in elementary school and how strange and dull they all seemed. Just a list of dead white men that didn’t have anything to do with my life or me. The best picture book bios seek to correct that old method of teaching. To make their subjects not merely “come alive” as the saying goes but turn into flesh and blood people. You learn best about a person when that person isn’t perfect, has troubles, and yet has some spark, some inescapable something about them that attracts notice. A combination of smart writing and smarter art is ideal, particularly when you’re dealing with picture book biographies. And The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau is nothing if not smart. It typifies the kind of bios I hope we see more of in the future. And, with any luck, it will help to create the kinds of people I’d like to see more of in the future. People like Henri Rousseau. Whatta fella. Whatta book.

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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Nov 27, 2012

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 4 and 8

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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Nov 27, 2012

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. Still, he clips them, saves them, and continues to paint. Over the years he meets with very little success but is inspired by greenhouses and the lush topiary found inside. He can’t afford to ever see a jungle of his own so he makes them up. Finally, after decades and decades, the new young crop of artists takes note of his work. At last, he is celebrated and appreciated and his naïf style is seen for what it truly is; Simultaneously ahead of its time, and timeless.

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