1 to 10 and Back Again

Published by Getty Trust

52 pages, 1999

A is for Artist

Published by Getty Trust

64 pages, 1997

 

 

You Gotta Getty These Three Excellent Children's Books

Reviewed by Tony Buchsbaum

 

As the father of two growing boys (aged 2 and 6) who are constantly on the run, I'm always on the lookout for interesting kids' books that'll slow them down enough for me to catch up. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has published three that I think are terrific.

As the title suggests, 1 to 10 and Back Again is a counting book. Using nice color photographs of beautiful 17th- and 18th-century French furniture from the Getty's collection, kids can learn to count from one to 10, then from 10 back down to one. Then they can learn to do a little basic addition, along the lines of (pictorially) three Louis XIV armoires plus two Louis XIV-era clocks equals what?

The pages are well-designed in a variety of ways, sometimes with the furniture totally in view, sometimes only partially or turned at funny angles. The important thing is that they're visually stimulating. Got to hold those tykes' attention, after all.

The minimal narration uses a combination of English and French in a very contemporary, engaging voice. Will all kids (or even their parents) get the French? Mais, non! But who cares? It's a fun, involving way to get kids looking at something beautiful, cultural and foreign.

A is for Artist is probably the best alphabet book I've ever seen. Which is not to say I see many, but I've seen my share. Anyway, this one goes from A to Z (a nice, workable order) and illustrates each letter with an image from the Getty's art collection. The Artist you see (for A) is a detail from Jan Steen's "The Drawing Lesson." The Iris (I) is a detail from van Gogh's "Irises." There's also a Cézanne Jar, from "Still Life with Apples." A Renoir Mustache, from "Portrait of Albert Cahen d'Anvers." Even a Degas Umbrella, from "Waiting."

The art is reproduced exquisitely, and the book even offers a gallery of all the pieces whole, giving the details much-appreciated context. (I like to have my older son find those details in the larger works, which transforms the book into a searching game, as well.)

Greece! Rome! Monsters! is the newest of the three, a picture book all about mythological creatures. Getty Books' senior editor John Harris has condensed 20 of the greatest myths into fun, kicky, free verse-style pieces that blend the myth tales with contemporary 'tude. (My kids loved it.) Example, from "Scylla and Charybdis:"

a six-headed

sea monster with three rows of teeth (ouch!) and twelve feet;

from the waist down, Scylla consisted of twelve dogs

THAT NEVER STOPPED BARKING. What a racket!

The words are complemented wonderfully by Calef Brown's illustrations, which range from the fanciful to the silly and from the downright strange to the my-how-ridiculous. Each one is a treasure designed to get kids grinning.

Included are the stories of the Basilisk, the Centaur, Cerberus, Chimaera, Medusa, Pegasus, the Unicorn and more. Plus, there's a quiz in the back, to make sure your kids weren't just indulging your need to make bedtime more fun, as well as a handy pronunciation guide.

So there you have it. Three gems. I don't believe they've won any awards, but these books will win something even greater: your kids' attention -- and your gratitude. | October 2002

 

Tony Buchsbaum is the author of Total Eclipse. At night he works on another novel and a screenplay. Days, he writes advertising copy in Lawrenceville, NJ, where he lives with his wife and sons.