cover image Willy's Pictures [With Gatefold]

Willy's Pictures [With Gatefold]

Anthony Browne. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0962-7

Glimpsed imagining himself as a painter in Willy the Dreamer, Browne's versatile chimp now takes up the palette in perhaps his most intriguing outing yet. Willy presents his versions of 16-plus familiar masterpieces, working his own imageDand a sophisticated, quirky humorDinto each. Refashioning Winslow Homer's rather somber The Herring Net as ""The Fruitful Fishing Trip,"" for instance, Willy adds splashes of color by changing the fishermen's catch to bananas; alongside the boat floats a pig, its neck encircled with this fruit. Pieter Brueghel the Elder's The Tower of Babel here becomes a sandcastle, with an overlaid image of Willy cast as the subject from William Blake's Glad Day. Observant readers will pick up on several recurring motifs, as well as elements from additional paintings: the desolate streetscape in Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning is brightened by flowers in a window (a diminutive reproduction of Vincent van Gogh's Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers), his friend Millie appears in another window, and Willy walks his ""dog"" (Buster Nose the gorilla on all fours) past a barber-shop pole in the multicolored pattern of the chimp's signature vest. On the penultimate spread, Browne sheds his mask to take readers on ""a tour of the pictures that inspired Willy."" A minor caveat: some of the reproductions of the original paintings in a concluding gatefold index are too small for youngsters to fully appreciate the contrast between the masters' and Willy's works. Regardless, ""Willy's"" enlightening captions beneath the original masterworks and a complete list of where the paintings can be viewed make this one-volume minimuseum well worth a visit. Ages 4-up. (Nov.)