Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories – book review

A Children’s History of Art

Written by Michael Bird Illustrated by Kate Evans

Published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd ISBN 978-1-78067-614-2

Review by Andy Robert Davies

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This book does two things very well, it condenses 40,000 years of creativity into comprehensible periods of time, and it also includes examples from around the globe, which gives a truthful overview of how human creativity has evolved. English Medieval illuminated manuscripts, Chinese landscape paintings and Cambodian temples are all used as the setting and focus for a variety of stories. Painting, printmaking and architecture are just some of the forms that are correctly introduced to the reader as art.

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Each story begins with a full-page reproduction of a particular piece that gives the supporting narrative a context. Bird tells each story with a steady pace and engaging dialogue, and is able to create the world within which the artist lived and worked. Evans’ illustrations use energetic, scratchy line with loose watercolour to help convey the main focus of the book, the story behind the artworks. Through the use of well-researched depictions of people and places as well as detailed maps, the reader gets a sense of the artists’ life and motivation for creating. A glossary of terminology (such as ‘patron’, ‘scribe’ and various ‘isms’) can be found at the back of the book, which helps to demystify the art world and to engage the reader.

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This “Children’s History of Art”, has a format that should appeal to young readers and enough variety to hold their attention and to inspire. It should also appeal to teenagers and young adults (especially art and history students) or indeed those older readers (I include myself here), who enjoy discovering about the lives of key figures in our history and value inventive combinations of text and image, of which this book is a fine example.

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You may also be interested in these book reviews:

This Is Bacon

This is Gauguin

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12th October 2016
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