LUNCHTIME FOR A PURPLE SNAKE

Harriet Ziefert, Author, Todd McKie, Illustrator , illus. by Todd McKie. Houghton/Lorraine $15 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-31133-0

Ziefert and McKie (previously paired for Squarehead) each try to approximate a child's style in this art lesson–cum–picture book. Jessica, the narrator, visits her artist grandfather in his studio, where the two paint. First comes a quick overview of color mixing: "Do you know that a little red and a little blue make purple?" Jessica disingenuously asks the audience. Then Grandpa encourages Jessica to turn her "mistake" (an accidental blob of paint on the page) into "something good" (a picture of spaghetti and meatballs). Grandpa's most interesting comments (he warns Jessica that if she keeps on painting, "the picture will 'go dead' ") go unexplained ("I'm not exactly sure what Grandpa means, but I'm willing to believe him"). Finally, they take turn adding elements onto a new painting (Jessica paints a purple snake, Grandpa adds a bug, and so on). McKie renders Grandpa's studio as an oasis of geometric shapes in solid, sophisticated colors. Grandpa and Jessica, too, boast pared-down faces and figures (McKie does not bother with eyebrows or necks, for example, while he paints teardrop-shaped noses with dots and mouths as single curves). The pictures Jessica paints, however, feel no more authentic than her narration. This book may have most value in prompting kids and adults to emulate Grandpa and Jessica's painting game; watching the painting evolve, readers may come to an understanding of the rudiments of composition. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Children's
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