Thursday, February 21, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Draw by Alex Beard

Monkey See, Monkey Draw by Alex Beard

Rating: 5 stars

About a month ago the kids' beloved Grammy went to visit an old family friend in New Orleans.  She and Sheila strolled around the city, eating everything they could and drinking in the time together (and hopefully nothing in grossly oversized mugs).  I loved the pictures Sheila sent me of their time together in the Big Easy--it gave me hope that I'd be able to wander around a city, exploring new shops and old book stores as long as I'd like...  At the moment that seems like a hilarious notion as in this chapter of my life, one, two, or three noisy, needy shadows constantly follow me around.  Anyway, one of the many cool places they visited along Royal Street was Alex Beard's studio.

Alex Beard's New Orleans studio
The pictures that Sheila sent me from the studio really intrigued me.  Here's a guy just a little older than me who was steeped in the arts at an early age and continued to be a photographer and artist as well as an "adventurer"--he's traveled across the world and clearly remains open to having new and unique cultures touch and affect him.  Monkey See, Monkey Draw was in the studio, and I saw pictures of my mom paging through it.  It was beautiful!  I ordered it from our library right away.

The story is simple: A band of silly monkeys play around with a baobab nut, and an elephant joins in.  The elephant's strong throw lands the baobab nut into a dark cave of which the monkeys are afraid.  The elephant is curious and brave and only a little afraid, so he leads the way inside.  What they see amazes them.  The animals find on the walls beautiful, elaborate paintings of animals.  "Each picture [is] made from a handprint or footprint."  Inspired and delighted, the elephant and monkeys use their feet and hands to draw pictures.

See how the art spills over the box/frame?  I love that--like
it can't be contained!
The illustrations use--you guessed it--thumb and finger prints for most of the animals in the story.  Beard crafts wily faces and crazy faces, jumping bodies and wiggling bodies, but all have the same base: his own hand.  The other cool thing about the illustrations is that they have a boxed frame to contain them, but the animals will NOT be contained!  They jump outside of it, and the African scenes spill over the sides of the box, too.  It's a neat addition to the book.

But the best part?  The invitation in the back in the author's note.  Beard describes how children always react wildly when he uses his hand or foot--or a willing child's hand or foot--and transforms it into an animal.  "Tracing a child's hand and turning the palm and fingers into the body, legs, and head of anything from a giraffe to a butterfly to a horse--and of course a monkey--fascinates the kids.  It gives them an easy starting place from which to make their own works of art, and it helps them think beyond their immediate comfort zone of flowers, rockets and square houses with triangular roofs and stick-figure families."  He hopes that when children read this story, they associated themselves with the monkeys and have fun with art.

This is more than a book--it's an invitation and an inspiration.  This book, some paint, some big paper and time (the best part of any gift) with your child to create alongside them (rather than type up a blog entry like I am doing).

1 comment:

  1. So cool to use their feet as animal springboards. And an artist I have not heard of so very cool.