Laurent de Brunhoff, Author . Abrams $16.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4597-5

In this whimsical, wry caper, Celeste and Babar decide to transform the abandoned Celesteville train station into a museum displaying the objets d'art they've collected on their travels. Preparing the building is a collaborative effort—the town's energetic elephants help rebuild the station, transport the paintings to the new gallery and hang them on the walls. But the pièce de resistance is the museum's opening day, when Babar's family and friends feast their eyes on a witty recasting of almost three dozen classic paintings and sculptures in which pachyderms take the place of human figures. Almost-touching elephant trunks replace fingers in a reimagining of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam and an elephant with golden tresses springs from the half-shell in a rendition of Botticelli's Birth of Venus. The museum-goers share their thoughts on what they like about the works of art and the ways in which they identify with the subjects (young Arthur chooses a Van Gogh self-portrait: "I like this picture because it's red"). With his gentle artistic makeovers and by predominantly keeping the focus on the younger elephants' questions, de Brunhoff skillfully allows young readers an entrée to the world of fine art. Babar offers some wise words when Alexander and Flora ask him if paintings in a museum have to be old or pretty: "It doesn't have to be or mean anything.... There are no rules to tell us what art is." Adding to the value of this impressive volume is a large, handsomely reproduced pull-out poster featuring nine of the "masterpieces" from the book, framed in gold leaf. A visual treat all around. All ages. (Sept.)

FYI:An exhibition of the book's original art will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago, the New York Public Library and to additional cities to be announced.

Reviewed on: 07/21/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 15 pages - 978-0-8109-8572-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4176-0234-6
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