The Right Word

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The Right Word
Roget and His Thesaurus

Jen Bryant
Melissa Sweet
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014

From the back of the book, “If only all the ideas in the world could be found in one place, then everyone would have one book were they could find the best word, the one that really fit. Peter carried this idea with him like a secret treasure.

“The story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus, one of the most widely used reference books ever published, is presented in this delightful picture book biography…”

So the reason we picked up this book (at a library sale – for a $1.00! Score!) was because of the illustrations. We came for the art and stayed for the story!!

The story of Peter Roget is fascinating – he collected words in long lists for most of his life. When he was 8 he wrote his first book filled with lists of words! Words and their meanings became his passion which ultimately ended up in a one-of-a-kind book categorizing words according to their meaning, not their spelling.

The illustrations are something else altogether. The artist created collages out of mostly watercolor (I think) as well as other mediums (acrylic, gouache, etc). These collages are so intricate and stunning, you have to read the book first, then go back and linger over every page to make sure you see everything. If you’re familiar with author/artist Graeme Base and how detailed his illustrations are, then you’ll have an idea of what M. Sweet’s pictures look like. Gorgeous! Fascinating! Amazing!

If you see this book at the library, check it out!!

Rating 5 of 5 paws for fabulousness!!

Reviewer: simon-locSimon

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An Artist’s Alphabet

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An Artist’s Alphabet

Norman Messenger
Candlewick Studio, 2016

From the dust jacket, “See how the shape of each letter is transformed into an extraordinary object in this ingenious and intriguing alphabet by Norman Messenger, the creator of Imagine and The Land of Neverbelieve.”

What an extraordinary book! This isn’t your average alphabet book – for instance, A does not stand for apple, C for cat or Q for queen. In the artist’s interpretation, A is a pair of circus performers, C is a line of waves, and Q is a group snakes. Not only are the subjects unusual, the colors are as well. No primary colors here – they’re all muted and earthy-toned. Very subtle, but very beautiful. We are adding this book to our list of must-haves! There are tons of inspiration within its covers and we guarantee you’ll be excited when you read this book.

Rating 5 out of 5 because it’s so gorgeous and awesome!!



The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats

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The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats

Claudia J. Nahson
With an essay by Maurice Berger
Yale University Press, 2011

From the dust jacket: “In 1962, Ezra Jack Keats’s children’s book The Snowy Day introduced readers to young Peter, the first African-American protagonist in a full-color picture book, who traipsed alone the snowy, wonderous sidewalks of the inner city. The book was a runaway success, capturing the Caldecott Medal and selling more than two million copies. Keats’s awareness of the city, its daily hum, and the role of its children are deeply felt and delicately rendered in words and bright collages and paintings. He made a prominent place for characters and places that had not been represented in children’s books, saying about Peter, “My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.”

Jacob Ezra Katz (Ezra Jack Keats) was born in Brooklyn in 1916 to poor Eastern European Jewish immigrant parents. His childhood was not what anyone would call ideal, growing up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood to parents whose marriage was one of convenience rather than love. He eventually grew as an artist and put those harrowing days into his beautiful urban cityscapes where most of the protagonists of his books lived.

In this book, the collaborators explore his childhood, artistic history and expound upon his groundbreaking art. Two years before The Snowy Day was published, he cowrote another pioneering book, My Dog is Lost!, with Pat Cherr in which the protagonist is a young Puerto Rican boy. The book’s publication coincided with the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day and with an exhibit of the artwork of Keats at The Jewish Museum in New York.

The preface and both essays are relatively short, yet informative. The authors give life to a man whose art is beautifully simple, and yet complex. Keats was previously unknown to The Library – the Auntie read about him from another blogger and was very interested. The artwork chosen to showcase is stunning and of particular interest because of the collage/paint combination.

Rating 4 out of 5 – although brief, a lot of information is shared about an author/artist who was a credit to his generation and an inspiration for many well-known artists and writers who read him as children.




Celebrity Cat

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Celebrity Cat

Meredith Hooper
Illustrated by Bee Wiley
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2006

From the dust jacket, “It’s Cats’ Visiting Night at the Art Gallery and all the city’s cats are gathering to look at cat paintings. But where are they? There were paintings of dogs, birds, tigers, even fish – but hardly a painted cat to be seen!
“Felissima Cat ponders the problem and back in her studio, paintbrush in paw, she decides to put cats where they belong. Meredith Hooper’s delightfully illustrated tale, stylishly illustrated by Bee Willey, introduces young readers to six great masterpieces in the great art museums of London, Madrid, New York and Paris.”

Where are the cats in the famous paintings of the world? Why aren’t cats depicted more often? After all, cats have always been around! That’s the question posed in the book and Felissima Cat becomes a Celebrity after painting cats in masterpieces like the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s chair and others. But after a while Felissima gets tired of being so famous among the cats. She returns to her artist studio and continues to paint, but this time, with her own ideas instead of copying the masters.

The text is medium small, but easy to read. Younger kittens may need help with some of the words but it is worth the effort. The illustrations of the cats are stylized and very pretty. Cat lovers and art lovers will enjoy this book. It will encourage you to take your kittens to your local art museum to search for cats in those paintings. And, if you don’t see any, maybe try to figure out where they are and what they’re doing!!

Rating: 3 out of 5 paws for a nice story about cats and art.




Caveat Emptor


Caveat Emptor
The Secret Life of an American Art Forger

Ken Perenyi
Pegasus Books, 2012

From the dust jacket: “Ten years ago, an FBI investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the southern District of New York was about to expose a scandal in the art world that would have headlined the front pages in New York and London. After a trail of fake paintings of astonishing quality led federal agents through a labyrinth of art dealers, renowned experts, and major auction houses, the investigation inexplicably ended, despite the abundance of evidence collected. The case was closed and the FBI file was marked “exempt from public disclosure.”
“Now that the statute of limitations on these crimes has expired and the case appears hermetically sealed shut by the FBI, this book, Caveat Emptor, is Ken Perenyi’s confession. It is the story, in detail, of how he pulled it all off.
“…Caveat Emptor is unique in that it is the first book by and about America’s most talented art forger. And unlike other forgers, Perenyi produced no paper trail, no fake provenance whatsoever; he let the paintings speak for themselves. And that they did, routinely mesmerizing experts in mere seconds.”

This is one of those books that if you read it as fiction or saw it as a movie, you would say ‘that can’t ever happen’. You know the phrase, “The truth is stranger than fiction”? Well, there was never any more truer statement as can be said about this book and about the life its author led (and may still lead). Quite simply, it blew my mind.

Not only is the author incredibly talented – I would say genius/savant level talent – but instinctively aware of what not to do so he doesn’t get caught. Of course, I was truly bothered – no, appalled is a better word – by his lack of basic moral values regarding theft and lying. There was some outright theft but it was more disturbing to me that he spent almost his entire early career lying by omission. He copied great works of art, signed the artist’s name to it but when he offered it for sale – whether to an auction house or a private seller/dealer, he walked up to the line but never crossed it – meaning, he never actually said the painting was by the artist or that he had painted it, just that he had ‘found’ it. It’s a slippery slope he was on and by a measure grace from somewhere he was incredibly successful at it.

The book is very readable – I don’t know if the author is as talented in writing as he is in painting or if he had a ghost writer – but I couldn’t put the book down. He takes the reader through a brief history of the Psychedelic Sixties, the Disco Seventies, the Over Indulgent Eighties, and all the way to the early 2000’s. Forging art was his life and, according to his website ( it still is, only he’s upfront with the forgery instead of keeping it hidden. Fascinating, truly fascinating. If you like books about interesting people, read this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because I couldn’t put it down, I just read straight through to the end.