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Monday, January 14, 2013

Mousterpiece, written and illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2012. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Each night after the museum
closed she loved to explore in
the dark, until, one night, she
came to a place she had never
seen before...
and her little world opened.
She began to draw pictures
like the ones she saw on the

OOOH! I love books that are meant for little ones to enjoy; and yet, they teach those adults who share them something they may not have known. Janson, who is named for noted art historian H.W. Janson, lives conentedly in a secluded space in the museum. She uses the evenings, when everyone else has gone home, to explore and make many happy discoveries. That is exactly what happens when she finds herself in the 'modern' art wing of the building.

There, she discovers a whole new world. As she studies the artists' works, she uses them as models for experimenting with her own talent:

"Janson painted in dots,
squares, circles, triangles,
squiggles and wiggles
and stripes."

And she has truly incredible experiences. As with many talented and dedicated artists, she soon has enough paintings for a show, following her personal path to being an artist in her own right.

This is a lovely book that provides a bit of art history for those who share it. The illustrations are meant to extend the meaning of the simple story of a mouse with aspirations...and talent. Her world expands with each new discovery. I am no art expect, or even mildly aware of many modern artists; but, I surprised myself in recognizing a number of the works. I like the way Janson becomes part of many of her own attempts at mimicking the style of one artist after another. I appreciate that after trying to emulate other styles, she is able to find her own. It is something that inspires original 'Mouseterpiece'!

Thankfully, the author must have known there would be people like me sharing this delightful little book. Knowing that, she has added a section as backmatter entitled, Janson's Favorite Artists. By doing so, she assures that we know more when we are finished than we might have at the beginning. Each piece of art is accompanied by a short blurb about the artist, the painting, and their signature style. A blessing for someone like me...thanks to Jane Breskin Zalben for the lovely lesson!

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