Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Babar's Museum of Art

Babar's Museum of Art

Laurent de Brunhoff
Picture Book  Series
For ages 5 to 7
Harry N. Abrams, 2003   ISBN: 0810945975

Queen Celeste and King Babar are taking a balloon ride over Celesteville one day when the queen notices the old railroad station standing abandoned and unused by the lake. She then comes up with the wonderful idea of turning the attractive building into a museum of art. Thus the Celesteville Museum of Art (closed on Mondays) comes into being. Celeste and Babar have a big collection of paintings and sculptures that they have collected on their travels, and now all the elephants in the kingdom can come and look at the beautiful pieces themselves.

At the opening of the museum, Pom, Alexander, Flora, Arthur, Isabelle, and Zephir go to look at the art works. They have never been to a museum before and don’t know what to expect or what to do there.

And this is where this wonderful book is such a great tool for children. It helps to show young children what an art museum is like and how paintings can tell a story. It also shows them how the elephant children in the book see different things than the grown-ups do. Cornelius, the old and wise elephant, knows a great deal about the paintings and what they mean. He can tell the children these meanings if they want to hear about them, but the elephant children learn that one doesn’t have to know the deeper meanings of a painting to appreciate it. Also they learn that a painting doesn’t have to be old or pretty to be considered art. As Babar says “There are no rules to tell us what art is.”

What this book does for children is to open up their horizons and give them a freedom in how they look at art and also, one hopes, how they create their own art. The adult reader of this book will delight in the author’s interpretation of great art works. Laurent de Brunhoff turned many familiar paintings and other pieces of art into elephant works of art. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait” has an elephant head and the “Little Dancer” made by Degas acquires a trunk, large ears and hefty legs.

All is all this is a delightful book for readers of all ages.