cover image Michael the Angel

Michael the Angel

Laura Fischetto. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30844-1

``Many, many years ago a child was born near Florence, one of the loveliest Italian cities. His father, Lodovico Buonarroti, decided to call him Michael the Angel. . . . But what kind of angel has no wings?'' So begins this unusually intelligent picture book, which introduces an often unruly boy who just happens to become a great artist--Michelangelo. Fischetto wisely refuses to lionize her subject; in fact, she emphasizes his human frailties. ``Now what kind of angel gets his nose broken in a fight?'' she asks in what becomes almost a refrain. ``He was not an angel,'' she decides near the end, ``he was just a man.'' Galli, for her part, pays irreverent homage to Michelangelo not by imitating his style but by veering away from it--skewering perspectives, reducing visual fields to an early Renaissance flatness, presenting her figures as anything but heroic, almost caricaturing the art of Michelangelo's day (see her witty rendering of Masaccio's Adam and Eve). She bathes her scenes in Tuscan reds and ochres, cool blues and greens, working with Fischetto to evoke a Cinquecento characterized by merriment and mischief as well as by masterworks. Ages 6-10. (June)