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Anna's art Adventure

Anna's art Adventure

by Bjorn Sortland
Uncle has said that Anna must be good and keep up while he shows all the grown-ups around the big art gallery where he works. She's not to ask questions or touch anything, or get tired or want to go to the bathroom. Almost immediately, Anna has a problem—when you've got to go, you've just got to go. A laughing self-portrait of Rembrandt tells Anna of a toilet


Uncle has said that Anna must be good and keep up while he shows all the grown-ups around the big art gallery where he works. She's not to ask questions or touch anything, or get tired or want to go to the bathroom. Almost immediately, Anna has a problem—when you've got to go, you've just got to go. A laughing self-portrait of Rembrandt tells Anna of a toilet exhibited by Marcel Duchamp, and she begins to search for it. Along the way, she is painted by Edvard Munch and talks to Vincent van Gogh, who's upset that no one wants his paintings. Pablo Picasso offers her a snack of square apples and triangle pears. Andy Warhol is painting soup cans, but nobody—not Cezanne, nor Matisse, nor any of the others—can tell her where Duchamp's toilet is. Finally Jackson Pollack, who's painting messily on the floor, shows her the way—but Duchamp's toilet is not what she expected.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brought along to the art museum by her Uncle Harold, a bored Anna slips away during his lecture to find a bathroom. She asks directions of a man in a painting, who turns out to be no help ("I, Rembrandt van Rijn, haven't been to the bathroom for more than three hundred years"), then finds and dons a mysterious red dress that thrusts her into a progression of masterpieces. Her tour includes encounters with Munch, C zanne, Chagall and others; Jackson Pollack even lets her take a turn with his brush. At each stop, Anna learns a smidgen about the artist's style and technique, but she doesn't linger, as she's still in need of the toilet. Aside from the overworked bathroom schtick (" `Just don't think about lemonade,' thought Anna, crossing her legs," as Van Gogh waxes eloquent about the many shades of yellow), Sortland's wry tone will attract readers' attention. However, allusions are often over children's heads ("But I am definitely not a pipe," says a painting of a pipe, while the artist, Ren Magritte, is not even mentioned until the endnotes). Elling, like Sortland a Norwegian, mimics most of the spotlighted artists. Some spreads are pure imitation--as in Anna's foray onto a Mondrian canvas--while others reserve the visual homage for just an integral detail (e.g., the nose of a woman modeling for Picasso) and still others simply incorporate a reference (e.g., Andy Warhol carries a case of soup cans). The strongest element here are the endnotes, which offer the art history lessons missing from the text. Ages 5-8. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Kristin Harris
Anna accompanies her Uncle Harold, a docent at an art museum, on a tour. She must not interrupt him while he is explaining the art work in the museum to the tour group. But Anna has to go to the bathroom, and she goes off on her own to find it. Her first encounter is with Rembrandt, who mentions that Marcel Duchamp had exhibited a toilet in his art, and maybe that would help her out. What follows is a progression of encounters with modern art masters one would expect to find in a major museum; Edvard Munch, Piet Modrian, Vincent Van Gogh, etc. Anna puts on a red dress from Munch's The Scream, walks along a black straight line from a Modrian painting and approaches Van Gogh painting in a wheat field. Her next encounters on her search for the bathroom are Picasso and Warhol. She finds Duchamps toilet, only to be disappointed because it is a urinal. She must get back to her uncle. She pulls off the red dress she has had on since running into Edvard Munch, and miraculously is back with her uncle. If this very contrived story has any redeeming value, it is as an introduction to a few of the great names in art history.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-An interesting but ultimately flawed offering from Norway. In this variation on a fantasy plot wherein children enter the worlds contained within famous paintings, Anna has an encounter with the fine arts when she accompanies her Uncle Harold to his job at an art museum. Needing the bathroom, she inquires of a self-portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn where the facilities might be. Although he indicates that he hasn't been to the bathroom in over 300 years, he does recall that Marcel Duchamp defied tradition and "exhibited a disgusting little toilet and called it art." This information sends Anna on a quest for that very same toilet through an artistic landscape that includes Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and several other legendary painters. Her search ends in disappointment as Duchamp's toilet turns out to be a useless, dusty urinal in the attic. She finally returns to reality and works up the courage to interrupt her Uncle Harold with her pressing query. The illustrator displays a strong sense of composition in the way that he cleverly incorporates the figure of Anna into these artistic masterpieces. Small, dense typeface detracts, however, from the visual appeal of the book. The content of the text is also somewhat lacking as the bathroom humor makes the story one-dimensional and repetitive.-Rosalyn Pierini, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A lively entry similar to Linnea in Monet's Garden (1987) and its ilk. Anna's trip to the museum turns out to be much more entertaining than her Uncle Henry's erudite guided tour of the art. Donning a mysterious red dress puts Anna into the paintings for chats with Rembrandt, Picasso, Warhol, and other painters about their art. In spite of this major artistic opportunity, Anna's main concern is locating the bathroon. When she finally encounters Duchamp's Fountain, she's disappointed to find that it is a rusty old urinal. In frustration, she pulls off the red dress, an act that returns her to Uncle Harry's tour and the realm of real bathrooms. Although Sortland includes brief biographies of the artists mentioned (which Elling draws in funny, recognizable caricature), this is a merry tale for classes heading to a museum, to use alongside more in-depth introductions to the experience. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Picture Books Series
Product dimensions:
8.82(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.36(d)
610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Bjorn Sortland is from Sunnhordland, on the west coast of Norway. He has won several literary competitions and awards for his young adult novels and his books have been translated into many languages.

Lars Ellings is from Oslo, Norway. He has illustrated many books, among them The Faithful Bull, by Ernest Hemingway, and has won several awards.

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