Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Once upon a picture

Once upon a picture

Sally Swain
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 9
Allen and Unwin, 2007   ISBN: 978-1741751062

In 1886 Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted a picture which he called ‘The Umbrellas.’ In it there is a little girl who is standing there holding a hoop and stick. She is looking at the painter. What is she thinking? Perhaps she about to ask the older girl next to her to play. Perhaps her Mama looking down at her is about to tell her that she has to behave herself. Let us imagine what could happen if that little girl could leap out of the painting and become free of the paint. Let’s see her play and have the fun that she been wanting to have for all these years.

Here is another painting. Paul Klee painted it and it is called ‘The Twittering Machine.’ Why would a machine twitter do you think? Let’s make up a story to find out. Perhaps there was a little girl who loved a tree and a machine came along and destroyed the tree. The machine’s driver was so sorry about what he’d done that he set about building a tree for the little girl to replace the one he’d destroyed – a mechanical twittering tree.

In this very special picture book Sally Swain takes her readers on four “Once upon a picture” journeys of exploration inside the art of four famous paintings. In addition to ‘The Umbrellas’ and ‘The Twittering Tree,’ she also looks at Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ and Henri Rousseau’s ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised)’. With minimal text and truly fabulous illustrations created in the style of the four painters, Sally Swain shows even the youngest of readers that paintings can not only be wonderful to look at but they can tell a story - or several stories - if you take the time to look at them and use your imagination. We can only hope that Sally Swain will create more art books of this kind in the future.