The Fantastic Jungles of Henry Rousseau

 

The fantastic jungles of Henri Rousseau / by Michelle Markel ; illustrated by Amanda Hall. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2012.

LCCN 2011035838, ISBN 9780802853646, hardback, 17.00.

B or 759.4, PRI NF, grades K-4, rating: 5.

 

Frenchman Henri Rousseau is a 40-year-old toll collector, but what he really wants to do is paint the beauty of the natural world. He is undeterred when his self-taught “naïve” style is ridiculed by critics, continuing to paint the wondrous things he sees and imagines. Two decades later, Rousseau’s work is finally acclaimed by younger artists, including the famous Pablo Picasso. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau is a biographical story by Michelle Markel that introduces the life and work of the determined 19th century artist.

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau is a wonderful look at the spirit and resolve of an artist at heart, who does not let poverty, lack of formal training, or discouragement from peers dissuade him from pursuing his passion to paint. Michelle Markel provides young readers (suggested for grades K-4) with factual details within the framework of a simple story that will intrigue, enlighten, and inform. The author’s endnote contains additional insights into the work of the artist, who never left the city of Paris yet created “fantastic jungles” on canvas. Amanda Hall’s rich watercolor and acrylic illustrations honor the unique style and perspective of Rousseau, portraying actual events and acquaintances of the artist. This would be an excellent addition to a school or home library and would certainly enhance an elementary-level art history lesson.

Nina Ditmar

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