The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

Michelle Markel, illus. by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans, $17 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5364-6
“Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist. Not a single person has ever told him he is talented. He’s a toll collector. He’s forty years old. But he buys some canvas, paint, and brushes, and starts painting anyway.” Markel’s account of Rousseau’s humility and amateur passion for art strikes just the right tone—it’s jaunty, confiding, and affectionate. Hall’s (Tales from India) acrylic and watercolor paintings celebrate Rousseau’s style without parodying it or dumbing it down. She alternates between spreads of the painter at work in the wild jungles of his own imagination—flying through the air in excitement as he discovers images that inspire him—and paintings of the modest surroundings in which he lives and the dour critics who sit in judgment of him. Markel (Tyrannosaurus Math) describes Rousseau’s poverty, generosity, freedom of spirit, and—finally—the recognition he achieves. It’s a story about a painter who isn’t driven by an enormous ego or a Promethean will but the simple love of color and form in nature—a love that Hall excels at expressing. Ages 5–9. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
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