by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H Reynolds - Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013
ages 4 years to grown-up / imagination
I’m not a really big fan of telling children how they should react to art, but I am a big fan of reminding adults that when children do react to art—or anything for that matter—it’s very often physical.
The Museum is a fun book written as a poem that follows a young girl through an art museum (think MoMA). She’s an exuberant child who lets her body show what she is feeling. Art moves her —something most any parent or teacher who has gone to the trouble of taking a child to an art gallery is hoping will happen to that child.
Generally, when children are taken to art galleries, they're expected to stand still, speak softly if at all, and walk slowly and carefully between exhibits. But...
Here is a little girl who whirls and twirls, who stands on her head, who lets the paintings and sculptures change her mood—and who is allowed to do so.
Perhaps the greatest lesson here for the parent or teacher reading the book is that (within reason of course) children (and perhaps adults too) can and should respond physically to art. The little girl says:
"the museum lives inside of me."
This too reminds us of the purpose of art. It's not just there to leave us amazed at the talent of the artist or to imagine how it would complement our décor—it's meant to lift us and to change the very nature of who we are. It’s there to lead us to questions or to resolutions.
The rhyme and rhythm of this book will attract children, so will the fluid and free illustrations. The message will resonate with many adults and will leave them with a terrible and wonderful dilemma each time they take a child to an art gallery. And that’s a good thing.
A small reading hint:
I think this would be great book to pull out periodically before a trip to an art gallery so everyone is on the same page about the purpose of the trip!