Spotlight on the Arts

Spotlight on the Arts

I love the museum and I love the theater, but I am intimidated by the opera and don't remember much from my one course in art history. If you are anything like me, you enjoy the arts but also wouldn't mind some kid-friendly introductions to classic works. I'd like to share a few books that open up the world of performing and visual arts for kids.

T was lucky enough to attend an open-door event for kids at an opera house, where he watched Paddington Bear's First Symphony. It was adorable and fun and sparked his interest in stage performances. There are not a ton of opportunities to watch such performances where we live, but T's dad and I have found two books that T cannot get enough of: The Magic Flute and A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories. The Magic Flute is a kids' version of Mozart's opera, with simple language, speech bubbles, and a "Who's Who?" introduction at the start. The story is narrated in easy-to-follow scenes, and the illustrations are bright and whimsical. If you've never seen The Magic Flute, that is totally fine! No background knowledge is necessary. A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories  includes narratives of 12 well-known plays. Each story begins with a Cast of Characters and proceeds into a fast-paced tragedy or comedy.  The stories are very easy to follow and include some of the most recognizable lines from the plays, like that "happy dagger." T's dad and I have now been the audience to a LEGO version of Romeo and Juliet – complete with kiss, sword fight, and dagger. T has thoroughly enjoyed these kids' renditions and is eager to see the "real thing" when he's older.

We may not have many theatrical opportunities, but we do visit our local art museum regularly. When we do, I often wish I had greater familiarity with what I am looking at in a museum, and not just because T is a font of questions. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," the saying goes. Although we aren't going to learn about a thousand artists, we can certainly begin with one: Degas. Degas: Painter of Ballerinas allows readers to connect with art and artist. Susan Goldman Rubin presents large images of Degas's work on each page, accompanied by a quote from or about the artist, or an interesting piece of information about his life and work. If you read cover to cover, you have a narrative of Degas's history, but you could also flip through to look at the art, reading a bit here and there – each page could stand alone. I particularly like this book from The Metropolitan Museum of Art because it includes so many primary sources and chunks information in ways that even quite young children can appreciate.

We serendipitously received a review copy of We Are Artists, which had not been on my radar when planning this post. Middle grade and older readers are introduced to 15 women who influenced the art world in some way. I recognized Georgia O'Keefe and Frida Kahlo, and was interested to learn about Amrita Sher-Gil and Corita Kent.  A brief biography is accompanied by an image of the artist's work and a portrait by Kari Herbert. T flipped through this text and asked about different artists (he was excited to recognize Kahlo from other books), but the biographies did not hold his interest. Ideal and worthwhile for older kids.

Whether popping into the museum on whim or visiting the theater for a rare treat, children can feel right at home after story time with these selections. I hope you find these titles helpful, and if you have other art books you love, please share them in the comments below!

The Magic Flute
Opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Replayed by Chris Raschka
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, August 2019
Note: A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories: 12 Tales From the Bard, Retold for Children
Written by Angela McAllister
Illustrated by Lindstrom
Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, September 2018

Degas: Painter of Ballerinas
By Susan Goldman Rubin
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 2019
Note: A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

We Are Artists: Women who made their mark on the world
By Kari Herbert
Published by Thames and Hudson, September 2019
Note: A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.