cover image Tigers & Tea with Toppy

Tigers & Tea with Toppy

Barbara Kerley, with Rhoda Knight Kalt, illus. by Matte Stephens. Scholastic Pre

As a girl in New York City, Knight Kalt loved spending weekends with her grandfather Toppy—the legendary artist Charles R. Knight, whose pioneering, dramatic murals of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures captured the public’s imagination. Together, they peruse the displays of his work in the American Museum of Natural History—“She feels the magic of traveling to an ancient world,” write Kerley (A Home for Mr. Emerson) and Knight Kalt—and visit the Central Park Zoo, where Toppy’s commentary on tigers and other animals always draws a crowd. Knight Kalt also mingles with interesting people in Toppy and grandmother Nonnie’s apartment; watches her grandfather, his eyesight weak since childhood, daub at his work; and wonders what she will grow to enjoy as much as he loves “drawing and painting animals.” Matching the text’s affection is gouache art by Stephens (Mr. Flux), which conveys how a larger-than-life figure takes shape in a child’s mind’s eye, and incorporates Knight’s actual paintings and drawings. A wealth of detail (including Toppy’s fascinating backstory) is handled with the lightest of touches, and final pages include author notes, source information, and photographs. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]