Book Review: Art For Baby

My grandfather used to tell me that babies needed to look at high-contrast images for their eyes to develop properly. Turns out that little bit of information is not entirely accurate. Babies prefer to look at high-contrast images because their eyes still haven’t developed fully, but they can see quite a bit and don’t really need to look at high-contrast images for their eyes to develop. If you’d like to read more, click here.

They still prefer to look at high-contrast images, and so for those of you who have an infant or know someone who is expecting, this book could be a good gift idea.

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This book has no words, just a bunch of high-contrast images from a few great contemporary artists. Some of the artists included are Keith Haring (Radiant Baby shown on the front cover), Julian Opie, Bridget Riley, and Josef Albers.

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The images were chosen wisely – there are faces, animals, (see the duck above), as well as some abstract images. Even my two-year-old had fun with this book. I especially enjoyed it because I felt like I was exposing him to a tiny bit of contemporary art, just on his level.

A Color of His Own

The other day at art play-group I was doing a lesson on color. All the kids at our group are 3 and under, so we were mostly working on color recognition. I recently learned that English-speaking kids learn colors at a later developmental stage than kids who speak some other languages, due to the way we use colors in our speech patterns. We tend to say “the red ball” rather than “the ball is red.” Apparently by using the descriptor before the noun, kids discount the information, but if you use the descriptor after the noun, you have narrowed their focus and they can identify “red” as an attribute of the ball. You can read more about that here.

Anyway, I wanted to find a book to go along with the lesson that used color words after the nouns they describe, and let me tell you, it is hard! Almost every book I found used the color words first. Then I found this oldie but goodie:

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A color of his own, by Leo Lionni.  The book is a charming exploration of a chameleon who is concerned that all the animals have a color of their own, but chameleons don’t have one constant color. In order to solve his problem and get a color of his own, he decides to climb on a leaf and stay there forever, and then he would always be green.

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I won’t spoil the story and tell you what happens, but you can probably guess! Eventually he finds another chameleon friend who joins him and they figure out a solution. I loved the simple illustrations in this book, the humor, and the fact that the color words are used after the nouns! I also thought using one object that changes color (the chameleon) was a great way to help kids connect the color words with the colors that they are seeing on the page. This book is a winner all around.

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Chuck Close: face book, by Chuck Close

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By chance I happened to see this book in the kids’ section at the library.  Since I like Chuck Close’s work and I think he is a good artist to use as an example when approaching several different subjects with kids, I picked it up.  It turns out the book was published just last year, and I think it’s a great reference book for kids.

As you may know, Chuck Close paints pictures of faces.  HUGE pictures of faces.  That’s all he paints (or draws, or photographs, or uses mixed media to create.)  What I didn’t know is that he has prosopagnosia, or “face blindness.” This is just one of the many things that kids will learn about Close in his new book.

The book is basically a question-and-answer session between Close and some kids (imaginary or not, I don’t know) visiting his studio.  There are the typical questions you’d ask an artist, such as  “What made you start to draw?” and “How long does it take you to make a painting?” There are other questions specific to Close’s work and life, such as “Why doesn’t anyone in your art smile?” and “Did you ever want to give up [after the Event]?” (The Event refers to a collapsing artery which caused paralysis from the chest down.)

In the middle of the book, there is a section of mix-and-match self portraits.  There are many portraits he’s done of himself at different stages of life, with different mediums.  I particularly enjoyed the fingerprint portrait.  I wasn’t sure why he chose to do mix-and-match, but I loved it anyway.

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There is something really fun about doing mix-and-match with an image of the same person, painted at different ages and with different media.  It was a bit more fascinating than making a bear-giraffe-cow.

Close’s personality and working style and sense of dogged determination and hard work come across in the book.  Some of my favorite quotes were:

  • “Sometimes I choose colors that get me in trouble–perhaps they are too loud or clash with the other colors.  Then I have to use my intuition to paint my way out.”
  • “Inspiration is for amateurs.  Artists just show up and get to work.”
  • “The discipline and determination I learned as a kid overcoming dyslexia helped me through ‘the Event.'”
  • “Ease is the enemy of the artist.  Go ahead and get yourself into trouble.”

At the end of the book, there is also a timeline of Close’s life.  I think this section would be useful for an older elementary student who was assigned to do a research project on an artist.

For kids who aren’t doing research projects, Close’s life is just a great example of someone who has overcome huge obstacles, from severe dyslexia to prosopagnosia, to paralysis.  If ever there is a kid suffering from the “I can’t” syndrome, this is a book for them.

 

Hello, Red Fox

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At the library the other day I was trying to find Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar. Luckily for me, it was checked out and I found Hello, Red Fox instead.  I was intrigued by this green fox masquerading as a red fox, so we brought it home.

I opened the cover, and immediately Little O wanted to turn the pages, so away we went.  I quickly realized that this book was a bit unusual, but with Little O speedily turning pages it was hard for this mama to fully appreciate.  Little O loved the brightly colored animals and we went through the book a couple of times.  Once he went down for his nap, I had a bit of time to myself to really dig in.

The unusual thing I noticed while Little O was turning pages as fast as he could was that on each left-hand page there was an illustration of a brightly colored animal.  On each right-hand page there was a small black dot.  I knew what these little black dots were for, and was delighted that Carle had crafted a book that introduces the concept of complimentary colors, or “opposite” colors using afterimages.

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Basically what happens is that when you stare at a color long enough, and then look at a white page, you’ll see the same image, only in the opposite color of the original image.  (So the orange fish pictured will be blue in the afterimage.)  There is a scientific explanation for this phenomena, having to do with your rods and cones tiring out and sending weak and strong signals to your brain, but I’ll let you look that up if you’re really interested.

Little O is a bit too young to appreciate the phenomenon of afterimages, but older kids will have fun with this book.  I recommend checking it out from the library and have some fun with complimentary colors!