When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be a children’s librarian when I grew up. The library was one of my favorite places to visit, and I couldn’t imagine a better job—being surrounded by books all day! I’m not sure exactly when I changed my mind and decided I wanted to be a teacher instead, but I still feel like I have a librarian’s heart hidden inside me. So it should probably be no surprise that I look for any opportunity I can to use children’s books as I teach art classes here at the museum. Young children (and let’s face it—us “older children” as well) love a good story, and books are a great way to spark their imaginations and begin conversations in front of a work of art.
Here are of some of the newest additions to our book shelves along with works of art here at the museum that makes a good pair.
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson
Henrik the prince wants to fall in love and get married. But all the real princesses he meets are much too sensitive—so sensitive that they can feel a single pea underneath twenty mattresses! So Henrik devises a plan to find a different sort of princess. He hides an entire bag of frozen peas underneath one thin mattress and a sleeping bag. Will he find true love?
This playful take on a fairy tale classic is a perfect story to read in front of the Gothic bed on Level 4. Although this bed was made for a would-be president and not a princess, you can still imagine with your child what it might feel like to sleep on this bed.
Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson
Magritte the painter sees a marvelous hat one day in a store window, but when he tries it on, the hat pops off his head and floats above him in the air! This suits the painter just fine, and he discovers that this marvelous hat seems to make his paintbrush jump to life. When the hat blows away one day, Magritte fears that he will never be able to paint his wonderful paintings again. Johnson’s illustrations are not to be missed—Magritte is imagined as a serious dog and small details scattered through the pictures wryly allude to some of the artist’s best-known works.
This would be the perfect storytime companion for the painting Persian Letters by René Magritte which you can find in the European Painting and Sculpture galleries on Level 2. This book is also a great introduction for young children to the idea of surrealism. As you look at both the picture book and the painting, search for more ordinary objects in unusual circumstances.
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Spoon has a very large family—from the exotic Chopsticks to the black sheep Spork, everyone seems to have it better than Spoon. Knife gets to cut and spread; Fork goes practically everywhere. Spoon’s mother tries to cheer him up by pointing out all the things he can do that the others can’t, until finally he feels better. My favorite thing about this book is the characters—the illustrator takes ordinary utensils and transforms them into an unbelievably darling family with hilarious facial expressions.
Take a copy of Spoon along with you on a visit to see the museum’s amazing silver collection on Level 4. You’ll find all manner of unusual utensils—ice cream knives, sardine forks, a waffle server—that can easily be turned into a new story about this “family” at the museum. Or, talk with your child about what it would be like to eat a fancy dinner with all these utensils.
Perfect Square by Michael Hall
Square is feeling just fine with its four straight sides and four sharp corners, until one day, it gets cut into pieces and poked full of holes. Suddenly it isn’t perfect anymore! Luckily, Square bounces back and transforms its new self of scattered pieces and lots of holes into a fountain. Each successive day, something new happens—Square is torn, snipped, wrinkled, shredded. And each time, it finds a way to become something new. I’ve used this book multiple times as a way to talk about creativity—how one idea can be transformed into all sorts of new ideas.
In the galleries, Perfect Square pairs nicely with Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red and Red. Ask your child which part of the story this painting reminds them of and what kind of feeling the painting gives them. Is it happy, sad, lonely, calm? What different feelings did Square have in the story?
I’m always on the look-out for good books to have here at the DMA. If you have a great art/book combination, please share it with us in the comments!
Posted by: Leah