Are you ready for a trip to Paris, or at least a pretend one?
After completing the list in the previous post of children’s books set in each of the 50 United States, I tried to think of books with strong settings from other countries. I immediately thought of an older book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson (Illustrator), and Joan Sandin (Translator). This unique book is a combination travel journal and biography, all wrapped into a beautiful piece of art in itself. The exquisite illustrations and superb photographs are enchanting.
In the book, our tour guide to Paris and Monet’s gardens is Linnea, a lively and charming young girl. Interested in nature and art, Linnea goes to Paris with her knowledgeable older friend, Mr. Bloom, to see Monet’s water lilies. On the way they encounter the sights like the River Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral and the second oldest tree in Paris. They take the train to Giverny, where Monet’s house and gardens have been turned into a museum.
Linnea’s descriptions make us feel like we are traveling right along with her, seeing the sights as she does. Particularly compelling is how the authors show a painting of a water lily close up and from far away, demonstrating how Impressionism works in a memorable way. On another page we see four paintings of the same bridge Monet did over his lifetime. We can see how the details change as his eyesight began to decline.
It is a marvel how the author and illustrator have packed so much information into 56 pages. In addition to descriptions and examples of Monet’s work, the book covers a detailed treatment of the restored gardens and a brief, but intense description of Monet’s life (warts and all), all woven into a compelling story. Also included are photos of Monet and his family, some previously unpublished.
If you are traveling to France with children, this book is a must. If your children are interested in France, art, photography, art history, Monet and nature, they will enjoy it as well. Finally, if you are simply ready to be carted off to a lovely garden/art museum for a few minutes, then you are ready for Linnea in Monet’s Garden.