Book: Van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists for Kids: Their Lives and Ideas, 21 Activities by Carol Sabbeth, Chicago Press Review, 2011, 144 pages.
Source: Received eGalley via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
I absolutely love van Gogh's art and was quite eager to read this children's book to learn more about him. Carol Sabbeth does a great job of summing up van Gogh's history as well as putting his life and art in a greater context. She helps the reader understand what was going on at the time in the art world as well as what was going on personally in van Gogh's life, what kind of person he was, what influenced him, and how he came to be an artist. I found that she presented the perfect amount of information - the book was both informative and entertaining.
Carol Sabbeth also presentes brief biographies of several other influential artists of the time and how their relationship with van Gogh influenced each other as well as the greater art scene. Some of the other artists she discusses are Paul Signac, Paul Gauguin, and Emile Bernard.
There are also several activities in the book for children to get their hands dirty and learn more about the art and culture that they are reading about. For example, there are art activities such as making a Starry Night peep box, paint your own vase of sunflowers, a Japanese fold out album, a Pointillist sail boat, and how to write an acrostic poem. There is also an activities to make a traditional soup that van Gogh may have enjoyed, which I thought was a fun way to learn more about the culture.
One of the things I found really interesting is how the author describes how much studying van Gogh had to do to become a great artist. Yes, he had a natural talent and aptitude, but he also had to work hard, study and practice continually, and was always open to learning new techniques.
I also liked the "art detective" spot that was written for each artist. This is a brief summary of how to identify a painting from that artist, describing their style and painting techniques.
This book presents interesting history interspersed with paintings and engaging activities and I am sure that elementary age kids would especially enjoy it, whether to learn more or do do research for a project. It was a beautiful book to read, full of colourful paintings. Carol Sabbeth has also written similar books on other artists, such as Monet.