Friday, 28 January 2011

BOOK REVIEWS - Katie and the Waterlily Pond ~ By: James Mayhew

Tuesday's inter-library loan shipment held a treasure for us to read ~ the recently published "Katie and the Waterlily Pond" by James Mayhew. This book was printed by Orchard Books in 2010 and features five masterpieces by Claude Oscar Monet.

Not unlike the rest of the Katie series, the young art lover visits the gallery with her Grandma.  This time there is a competition taking place, giving Katie the opportunity to submit her own painting in the impressionistic style of Claude Monet.  It's a race against time - the judging is at 3 o'clock.  Katie decides to tour the exhibition for some inspiration while Grandma takes time out for a nap! The first painting that catches the young girl's eye is "In the Woods at Giverny."

In The Woods at Giverny

When Katie steps into the painting she enjoys a conversation with Blanche Hoschede, who is painting at an easel.  In reality, Blanche was Claude Monet's stepdaughter, resulting from his marriage to the girl's mother, Alice.  The other girl, who is reading a book, is another stepdaughter, Suzanne Hoschede.  The painting was completed in 1887.  We are told (in the notes at the back of the book) that Monet gave Blanche regular art lessons and she became an important painter, too.  This painting is housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Blanche gives Katie a brief art lesson, to assist her with the competition, before she steps out of the painting and back into the gallery.  Katie soon sees "Bathers at La Grenouillere" and moves on to explore it.

Bathers at La Grenouillere

Katie decides to get in a boat and float along the river until she finds a nice view to paint for the competition.  Unfortunately the boat she selects springs a leak.  Katie manages to reach a jetty and rescues her painting supplies, but the boat sinks and her painting floats away in the water.  Having had enough of that, Katie retuns to the gallery, determined to find something else.  Perhaps a trip to Paris is the answer!

The Rue Montorgueil, Paris

Katie climbs inside The Rue Montorgueil, Paris and finds herself on a balcony of a grand hotel.  She enjoys the atmosphere ~ with the flags waving and the crowds and a parade coming down the street.  Katie goes  down to the ground level and begins to paint.  She is so busy at her easel, Katie doesn't see the band marching straight towards her.  Suddenly her picture is caught on the end of a trombone!  After it is crushed between a pair of cymbals, the picture is sucked into the top of a tuba.  The band leaves and Katie has to find a nice quiet place to continue painting her entry for the competition.  "Path Through the Poppies" might provide just the right tranquil backdrop.

Path Through the Poppies
However, Katie is soon caught in some new desperate circumstances. She enjoys a brief peaceful interlude painting and listening to birdsong and the gentle mooing of a cow.  But the cow turns out to be a bull ~ and Katie is wearing red!  The bull charges, Katie run back to the safety of the gallery and she, once again, loses her painting as in all the commotion it is impaled on one of the bull's horns!  Running out of time, Katie spies "The Waterlily Pond."  It's Katie's last chance to produce a picture for the competition.

The Waterlily Pond
The garden is beautiful and Katie begins painting the scene before her eyes.  She sees a frog and tries to paint him.  The little creature hops away and Katie tries to follow but falls and gets stuck in the mud.  Her picture falls into the pond but the wee girl fishes it out.  "Painting like Monet is just too hard," she exclaims, before gathering everything up and then returning her painting supplies to Blanche Hoschede.  Her instructor encourages Katie, telling her that the painting is beautiful and that the smudged paint is a lot like Monet's techniques.  So Katie takes her painting to the judges and wins first prize!  For her troubles, she receives a luxury set of paints.  By now Grandma has woken up and she, too, admires Katie's painting. Katie promises to teach Grandma how to paint like Monet, but before their lesson, the pair go off in search of a piece of cake for a mid-afternoon snack.

The information page at the back of the book says "Monet painted hundreds of wonderful pictures which are in galleries all over the world.  Why not see if your nearest gallery has a painting by the magnificent Claude Monet?"  "Bathers At La Grenouillere" is in the National Gallery in London, as is "The Waterlily Pond."  "The Rue Montorgueil, Paris" is fittingly in the Musee d'Orsay in the French capital, and "The Path Through the Poppies, Ile Saint-Martin, Vetheuil" hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  I laughed and said to Alisdair I didn't think the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford would have any works by Monet on display!  Perhaps if we go to a larger city sometime, we might be lucky enough to see one.

On the back cover of this volume, the website for Orchard Books is advertised.  There are four titles listed that we have not been able to obtain from inter-library loans.  However, one of these appears to have been published under two titles (perhaps one was used in Britain and the other in North America?)  "Katie and the Bathers" appears to have the same content as "Katie's Sunday Afternoon."  The three we have been unable to obtain are "Katie in London," "Katie and the British Artists" and "Katie and the Spanish Princess."  Perhaps we can order these from the publisher someday.  Failing that, we will have to wait until James Mayhew, the author of Katie's wonderful adventures, is inspired to write another children's book!

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