I had the best of intentions at the outset of summer vacation. The kids and I were going to get ourselves some culture. We were going to drink in art museums and classical music, maybe even some historical sights. Well, we have gone swimming frequently and eaten a lot of ice cream. Does that count as culture? Luckily, I found two great books at our library that don't quite serve as a substitute for a trip to an art museum but have engaged all three of my kids. Katy Friedland and Marla K. Shoemaker's A is for Art Museum is terrific. It is, as the title suggests, an alphabet book, and it presents dozens of pieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A question is posed of each piece as well, helping readers/viewers/art appreciators think about the art. For example Modigliani's Portrait of a Polish Woman faces a page that reads, "N is for neck. Here is a lady with a very long neck. Can you stretch your neck like this?" Van Gogh's Sunflowers is used for the letter S. "S is for sunflowers. Vincent van Gogh loved to paint sunflowers. Can you see where he signed his name?" In addition to the question given for each piece in the book, the authors give suggestions to enhance the readers' next museum visit. If we can organize ourselves to go this summer, I've got some great ideas to try with the kids.
My other fun art book discovery is the Touch the Art series of board books featuring famous works of art. We especially loved Pop Warhol's Top. My six year old son Ethan learned about Keith Haring in art class during the school year and made an exuberant picture inspired by his work so it is not surprising that he enjoyed the Keith Haring pages in this book. It makes 20th century art approachable with fuzzy pages and pop up book type action as well as a bit of background information on each piece. Other titles in the Touch the Art series are Brush Mona Lisa's Hair and Make Van Gogh's Bed.