Written by and illustrated by Eva Montanari
Publishers : Watson Guptil, Sept 2002
Themes : art, expressionism, cubism, futurism, abstractionism, dadaism, perception of danger (not always what it seems), African Animals
Opening and Synopsis : “In the grassy fields of Africa, there is a school where young animals learn to read and write, to make music and art.”
Montanari uses a classroom of African animals and Master Elephant’s portrait lesson on the feared crocodile, to teach both various artistic forms, and the truth that there are many ways to see things, even our enemies. This is no mean feat, to teach so much in one short picture book!
These young savannah animals all think they know about the dangerous croc that lurks in the nearby river. One by one they paint the croc, their way. I don’t want to give too much away as this is a very clever and subtle story, but let me give you an example. The animals laugh at little giraffe’s painting, which appears to be just crazy splots and dots.
‘Little Giraffe has painted shapes and colors that aren’t supposed to look like the real Crocodile,” says Master Elephant. “They are meant to show a feeling about him. In painting, this is called Abstractionism.”
Why do I like this book? I think all children should be immersed in, and exposed to, all forms of the creative arts, and I am impressed how in this book, using very simple terms, Montanari illustrates and describes: Expressionism, Cubism, Abstractionism, Futurism and Dada in a way that most five year olds will grasp! Children will also enjoy discovering that the ‘dreaded’ Croc may not be as dreaded as they first believed, and it is Little Croc himself, who has the last say about his true colors. I found the art whimsical and appealing and think this would be a great addition to any primary art curriculum.
Activities: Art gallery visits for older children. Painting (especially portraits) and reproducing each of these art forms in the home or classroom. Top Ten Online Art Museums for Kids.