Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Katie and the Sunflowers

Katie and the Sunflowers

James Mayhew
Picture Book  Series
For ages 5 to 8
Scholastic, 2001   ISBN: 978-0531303252

It is a very wet day, too wet to be out in the garden so Katie and her grandmother decide to go to the museum. Katie soon finds a painting by Vincent Van Gogh which she likes. It is a painting of a vase full of sunflowers. They look so real and Katie wishes that she could have some of the seeds from the flowers to plant in her garden. She reaches out and finds out that she can actually touch the flowers but she also bumps the vase and the whole arrangement falls over and onto the museum floor. Now what is Katie supposed to do?

Katie ends up asking one of the little girls whom she sees dancing in a painting by Paul Gauguin to come and help her clean up the mess. One of the little girls, Mimi, agrees to help if she can bring her dog Zazou with her. Katie agrees and the two little girls start to gather up the flowers but then Zazou decides that he wants to play. He snatches the flowers and is off.

What a dance Zazou leads the little girls. First they cause chaos in Van Gogh’s painting Café Terrace at Night, then they upset Cezanne’s Still life with Apples and Oranges. Finally they end up in Tahitian Pastorals, a painting by Paul Gauguin, where Zazou makes friends with a large red dog. Now all Katie has to do is collect all the sunflowers and take them back where they belong.

This wonderful adventure into the paintings of some of the postimpressionist artists is not only fun but it gives the young reader a taste for art and how different artists painted their worlds in very different styles. When Katie is inside a painting James Mayhew has created a backdrop for her in the style of the painting she is in. Thus in Van Gogh’s Café we see splashes of colour and obvious brushstrokes that were typical of his painting technique.