The invention of photograph had a profound impact on painting. At the start of the 19th-century the goal of painting was realism, but with a camera that became a moot point. Eventually the art world decided the only rational thing to do was to go in the opposite direction and to find an alternative to reality. The Impressionists represent the first successful movement by paintings to capture the public imagination with "non-realistic" art. "Monet and the Impressionists for Kids" not only introduces young readers to Impressionism but also follows up with 21 activities that will allow them to try their hand at painting. These activities are what makes Carol Sabbeth's book stand out from others on the Impressionists in general and Claude Monet in particular, because it is pretty much impossible to be exposed to these paintings and not want to try to do it yourself.
The book is divided into two halves. Part I: The Impressionists introduces readers to "A New Way of Looking at the World" and then devotes sections to the life and art of Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt. Monet is clearly the star of the book (he certainly defines Impressionism for me), and there are five activities devoted to his section. Part II: The Post-Impressionists looks at the painters Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Surat, with a final section devoted to "Lasting Impressions."
Sabbeth provides a concise biography for each of the artists, with reproductions of their most famous and important works, along with an Art Detective section that tells you how to spot their work in terms of distinguishing characteristics. Most of the activities are specifically tied to the paintings. Off of Monet's "Regattas at Argenteuil" we learn about Painting Reflections; from the cloisonnism of Gauguin we experiment by making a Cup of Gauguin. These activities explore the uniqueness of these painters, from Cezanne�s brilliant rectangles of color to the sculpture-like circles of dancers by Degas. Some of these activities are truly creative, such as constructing your own little Monet haystack to appreciate the colors and light at different times of day. I especially liked the one for Seurat Sugar Cookies, where you make your cookies sugar-sprinkled masterpieces using the artist's pointillist technique.
I totally agree with the premise of this book, that there is no art form more appealing to children than Impressionism. If you are not a "real" Art Teacher (a distinct possibility in the wonderful new world of educational budget cuts) you will find "Monet and the Impressionists for Kids" both informative and instructional. Not only can you introduce children to the ballet dancers of Degas and the island scenes of Gauguin, but you can also find several activities for your students to do in class or at home. This is a very enjoyable and practical look at the great Impressionist painters. This book is for ages 9 and up, which is great because I qualify as being up.