Find Adventure at the Art Museum in These Two Picture Books

Lynn: Art museums are magical places! These two picture books from 2018 take that idea and use it to spin imaginative tales.

The first is Raúl Colón’s delightful Imagine (2018). In this wordless story, a young boy leaves a drab area of his city to visit the Museum of Modern Art. As he carefully observes three famous paintings, the figures in the paintings come to life, leave their frames, and join the boy on a wondrous adventure. They ride the Cyclone at Coney Island, visit the Statue of Liberty, sing together in the park, and share hot dogs before returning to the museum. The boy heads home, too, but stops to brighten his neighborhood by creating a lovely mural that features his artful companions.

Imagine by Raul ColonColón’s imaginative story is as beautiful as it is fun, encouraging young readers to explore, imagine, and create. In a must-read author’s note, Colón shares his own story of not visiting an art museum until he was grown and wonders what it might have meant for his own artistic development had he done so as a child. He hopes children will put away their gadgets and screens and visit museums in order to “free their minds and explore their thoughts.”

Anna at the Art Museum (2018), by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, also follows a child’s visit to an art museum. But here, young Anna is a most reluctant visitor. Everything seems “old and boring,” and frustrating rules and a grumpy guard curtail any fun Anna creates for herself. But then the guard surprises Anna and takes her behind the scenes where paintings are being studied, repaired, and cleaned. There on an easel is Mary Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Blue Armchair with the portrait’s subject looking just as cross and bored as Anna. A connection is made and Anna now sees the museum’s collection with new eyes as she feels “color swirl around her.”

Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins and Gail HerbertLil Crump’s illustrations are a delight. Each scene is filled with visual jokes that reward careful attention. The digital characters comically mirror the beautifully rendered reproductions of famous artwork from around the world. When Anna sets off the alarm, horrified patrons mimic Edvard Munch’s The Scream; later, a tired Anna and her mother rub their toes in front of two equally footsore figures in Degas’s Two Dancers at Rest. Helpful back matter includes thumbnail sketches and information about each piece of art included in the story.


Both of these books tell entertaining stories while offering ideal introductions to the joyous inspiration of art museums.


About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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