"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mary Cassatt

Venezia, Mike. Mary Cassatt. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists. Chicago: Children's Press, 1989. 32 pages.

"Mike [Venezia] believes the best way to introduce kids to art and artists is through fun. If kids can look at art in a fun way, and think of artists as real people, the exciting world of art will be open to them for the rest of their lives." (description from the book cover)

Overall Rating: **** (out of five)

  • Illustrations: Mike Venezia's original illustrations are amusing and add the the appeal of the text.  They are perfectly tailored to the young audience of the book.
  • Painting Reproductions.  The reproductions of Cassat's paintings that appear in the book are beautiful, with bright colors that would be appealing to children.
  • Text.  The text of the book is simple, well geared toward children, particularly those that are reading on their own, but it would also be good for parents to enjoy with their children.
  • Length.  The book could stand to be a little longer.  Cassatt's life was complex, and it could have benefited from slightly more exploration.  However, that is an occupational hazard of children's non-fiction, and Venezia succeeds with the limitations.

Writing non-fiction for children is hard.  It does not have the same linear story as good fiction, and it is often more complex than is common in children's literature.  Mike Venezia does an admirable job of it, presenting a compelling story of Mary Cassatt.  That he begins her story when she was a child increases the appeal for children.

Cassatt's paintings themselves also, I think, enhance the appeal for children.  Many of her paintings feature children, often with their mothers, a subject with which children can easily relate.  Any parent looking at the reproduction of Cassatt's Little Girl in a Blue Armchair on page 19 is likely to recognize that same bored, lazy pose from children they know, and children looking at it will likely be able to sympathize with the little girl.  Cassatt's paintings are beautiful, with bright colors and deceptively simple subject matters.  This makes them easily accessible to children.  I would recommend this book, as well as others in the series, for parents interested in introducing their children to art and artists.

Related Reading:
  • Venezia, Mike. Van Gogh. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists. Chicago: Children's Press, 1989.
  • Venezia, Mike. Monet. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists. Chicago: Children's Press, 1990.


  1. I like the way you lay out the strength and weaknesses of the book - works for the way I think. I'm looking forward to adding this book to my younger children's reading list.
    Brenda from http://www.brendamccreight.blogspot.com

  2. I'm glad you liked my review! I review children's/young adult book every Wednesday!