Charlotte in Paris
Joan McPhail Knight
Illustrations by Melissa Sweet
Historical Fiction Picture Book (Series)
Ages 7 to 10
Chronicle Books, 2003, 0-8118-3766-1
Charlotte is happy living in Giverny in France, especially now that her best friend Lizzy is also living in the artist’s colony. Charlotte is very excited because her family have been invited to attend an exhibition of paintings in Paris. The painter is Mary Cassat, one of the most famous women painters of the times. Charlotte’s and Lizzy’s families go to Paris and have a wonderful time seeing the sites, meeting famous painters, and generally enjoying all the entertainments that Paris has to offer.
Through Charlotte’s words in her journal we get to meet the painters who founded and grew the impressionist movement. We get an inside view of their work, their techniques and their very individual personalities. For example we discover that the famous Mr. Monet (who lives next door to Charlotte’s family in Giverny) not only could capture light on water to perfection on the canvas, but that he also had a very unpredictable temper.
In addition to Charlotte’s charming story the author has incorporated vignettes of French life, dashes of the French language, and images of the French culture. Combined, they give this wonderful book both realism and a distinct and authentic flavour. The scrapbook format of the book provides the reader with much to catch the eye. There are period photos, collages, illustrations, and much more.
In addition the book in full of reproductions of famous paintings that were created by the painters mentioned in Charlotte’s story. Thus the real art and the story are linked. In the back of the book the author provides information about each of the paintings shown, and also a brief biography of the painters mentioned in the book.
The combination of the author’s text, and the illustrator’s clever artwork produces a book which beautifully captures the exciting atmosphere of the life of the painters, of Paris in the late 1800’s, and of the constantly changing world where so many new things were happening.
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