Book: Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent De Brunhoff
Genre: Children’s General
Ages: 4 – adult
Everyone who loves art, Babar, or children will love Babar’s Museum of Art. The old train station in Celesteville stands empty—should it be torn down? “No!” declare Celeste and Babar, who decide to turn it into an art museum. Their children (like many young museum-goers) have a lot of questions about art: “Does it have to be pretty? Does it have to be old? Does it have to make sense?” Celeste’s patient answers explain the basic ideas of art appreciation. Babar and Celeste’s generous donations to the new museum include witty and striking elephant-inspired version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Man, George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, along with many other celebrated paintings. Children and adults will want to visit Babar’s Museum of Art again and again!
Here are some things I love passionately: the Orsay Museum in Paris, elephants, and children’s literature. This book combines those three things into a children’s book about great art featuring elephants housed in an Orsay-like structure. I actually came across this book first in a college course. It was essentially art appreciation, but the professors took it very seriously. We were to explore themes like “what is Art?” (with a capital A). I dropped that course. I don’t understand research papers based on subjective things like art appreciation. Fiction, I get. Research papers based on the physical or social sciences, I get. Fine arts papers, not so much. As far as I can tell it involves researching which noted scholars have opinions similar to yours, and then quoting them in MLA format. This might be part of why it became necessary for me to drop this course.
Anyways, the best thing that came out of that course was this book. It is amazing. It can be used up and down the age spectrum, taken very literally with the younger children (it’s a story about elephants going to the museum), then explored in more depth with older children (or adults). What are the differences between this painting and the original? What do you think of the answers to the young elephants’ questions about art?
The elephant representations of famous works of art are subtle and very funny. This book would be a great read before visiting a museum, during a homeschool (or any school, for that matter) class on art, or just for fun.