Art Appreciation

An assortment of books introduces art masterpieces, contemporary and historical. The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present by Tony Kushner takes an in-depth look at one of the most prominent artists within—and beyond—children's literature. Perhaps best known as the Caldecott-winning artist of Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak also wrote the libretto and produced theatrical set and costume designs for the opera version, plus posters, CD covers and much more. Picking up where The Art of Maurice Sendak (1981) left off, this volume includes a look at the artist's dark picture book, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, his witty illustrations for James Marshall's Swine Lake, his sets and character studies for the musical Really Rosie and the opera The Magic Flute, as well as his most recent work on the opera Brundibar and the picture book on which it is based, adapted by Kushner (see Children's Forecasts, Nov. 3). This elegant volume, lavishly filled with hundreds of Sendak's illustrations, including two expanded gatefold spreads (one from Dumps, and the other a watercolor study of the set for the Nutcracker ballet), is an enthusiastic celebration of the artist's work by an award-winning playwright and personal friend of Sendak. (Abrams, $60 224p all ages ISBN 0-8109-4448-0; Nov.)

The Great Artists series launches with a quartet of paper-over-board biographies, including analysis and reproductions of their masterpieces, as well as timelines of important events during their lifetimes. Great Artists: Michelangelo by Roberto Carvalho de Magalhães, for instance, features the sculpture David, for which Michelangelo "employed all his knowledge of human anatomy and classical art," and The Creation of Adam, the famous scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Leonardo Da Vinci by Maria Teresa Zanobini Leoni takes a look at the Italian artist's The Last Supper and Mona Lisa (La Gioconda). Featured works in the study of the French Impressionist Claude Monet also by Magalhães include The Poppies at Argenteuil and his series of oil paintings based on Rouen Cathedral. Paul Gauguin by Maria Siponta De Salvia examines the works of this French painter who lived in Tahiti for many years, including Two Women on the Beach and Ea Haere la Oe (Where Are You Going?). (Enchanted Lion Books [FSG, dist.], $15.95 each 40p ages 10-up ISBN 1-59270-008-X; -007-1; -009-8; -010-1; Nov.)

Mickey Mouse, Goofy and friends help introduce art to children in the paper-over-board Disney: Looking at Paintings: An Introduction to Fine Art for Young People by Erika Langmuir and Ruth Thomson, as they explain everything from the reasons people create art (portraits, historical events, etc.) to the effects of size, color, lighting and setting on a painting. In addition to reproductions of famous paintings, illustrations and comic strip stories featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and the gang help make the concepts child-friendly. (Bunker Hill [617-242-1518], $14.95 160p ages 8-up ISBN 1-59373-008-X; Oct.)

Learn Your ABC's and more

DK's "babygenius" series introduces basic concepts with eye-catching photographs, simple text and inviting design elements. Baby Animals shows a large picture of a duckling swimming with feet submerged on the left. In three photos on the right, the duckling demonstrates "tumbling over/ waddling/ floating" (the feathered fellow peeks above the photos' border for "waddling"); a path of webbed feet decorates the bottom of the page. In a similar format, the numeral proudly appears in bold colors on the right of each spread of Numbers, with familiar objects to count, from "one happy baby" to "five toys for bathtime fun." Colors features a "big red noisy drum" and three other red objects; blue butterflies, a green apple, purple flowers and more follow. Shapes introduces square blocks, a starfish and heart-shaped chocolates. Notes for parents on the back covers suggest ideas for introducing the concepts to little ones. (DK, $7.99 each 14p ages infant-3 yrs. ISBN 0-7894-9882-0; -9883-9; -9881-2; -9884-7; Oct.)

Favorite characters appear in Nick Jr. ABC Block Books, a set of 26 board books, one for each letter of the alphabet, in an attractive box with cord handles for easy toting. Each chunky book has four spreads, featuring simple pictures and word labels for familiar objects that start with the appropriate letter. Children can build towers and build vocabulary with the help of Dora, Little Bill, Blue, Oswald and more. (Chronicle, $24.95 ages 6 mos.-5 yrs. ISBN 0-8118-4012-3; Oct.)

Pop-ups, flaps and pull-tabs animate the silly math story The Odds Get Even! by Pamela Hall, illus. by Lynne Chapman. Everything in the Food Mart is packaged in even numbers, and so the odd numbers—anthropomorphized number shapes—go on strike. (Intervisual/Piggy Toes, $12.95 26p ages 5-up ISBN 1-58117-216-8; Sept.)

Two spiral-bound board books with split pages help children learn to read and count. Flip Me! Spelling: Three-Letter Words divides words and illustrations of familiar animals and objects into three panels. Each panel has one letter and 1/3 of the picture. Children can rearrange the panels to complete the word and picture or create their own funny combinations. Colorful borders provide a clue to matching the pages correctly. Counting 1-10 has pages divided into two panels, which kids can rearrange to match. One side has photographs of objects to count, along with words identifying the number and name of the object; the other side shows the numerals from 1-10. (Buster Books [Andrews McMeel, dist.], $5.95 20p ages 3-5 ISBN 1-903840-98-8; 1-904613-03-9; Sept.)

What Z Is for Zamboni did for hockey, K Is for Kick: A Soccer Alphabet by Brad Herzog, illus. by Melanie Rose-Popp, does for soccer, explaining its rudiments—from A as in "Argentina to Australia," where the game is played, to Z for "Zinedine Zidane,/ a French star named world's best,/ and athletes of all ages/ who play the game with zest." (Sleeping Bear [734-475-4411], $16.95 40p ages 4-12 ISBN 1-58536-130-5; Sept.)