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Posted April 6, 2013
Reviewed by Ty Mall for Readers' Favorite
"Gatsby’s Grand Adventures" by Barbara Cairns is about a cat, his forays into famous paintings during the night, and the hilarious results if he doesn’t end his shenanigans before the sun comes up. In this book, Gatsby explores Winslow Homer’s painting 'Snap the Whip'. He chases a mouse through a field and around a schoolhouse, almost gets stepped on by boys, and gets chased by a determined dog. Miss Annabelle, who owns the art gallery where Gatsby lives, even thinks she saw him inside a painting. But that couldn’t be true, could it? At the end of this book, there is a biography of the painter, Winslow Homer, as well as a list of websites for those who want to learn more about Homer and art in general.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It portrayed art in a way that, I think, would entertain both young and old, in addition to making them want to learn more about art. Transcending the scope of the intended audience is one of the things that I think makes great writing stand out. And this book accomplished all that by showing me, rather than telling. This book would be a great way to encourage imagination and creativity, as well as interest in art and art history. The illustrations were fun, too. Even without the impressive bios of the author and illustrator, it was clear to me that both are experts at their craft. The choice of an approximate age for this book and the resource section served as great final touches. Can’t wait for more books from this author.
Posted January 14, 2013
Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Book 1, Winslow Homer’s ‘Snap the Whip,’ by Barbara Cairns, with art by Eugene Ruble, is the first book in a series about famous paintings and one venturesome cat. Gatsby is a cat with a special ability to “jump” into paintings at night in his owner Annabelle’s art galley. You can imagine he will have a lot of adventures in new paintings. There is a catch – Gatsby has to jump out before sunrise so everything in the painting will go back to normal.
In this first adventure, Gatsby sees the fun the boys have playing the “Snap the Whip” game in this version of Homer Winlow’s famous painting. He jumps in for a closer look and is happily exploring. However, he gets sidetracked by other creatures and misses the exit deadline. When he jumps out, he has left the painting in a “mess.” He has to go back and try to fix it the next day.
This book series gives the illustrator, Eugene Ruble, the opportunity to combine his talent with those of some famous artists. In this first book, his portrayal of the people shows their emotions and enjoyment of life. His pastels contrast well with Homer Winslow’s “realism.” We’ll see what challenges await him as the series progresses.
This book blends together humor, art history and art education, adventure, and enjoyment of life. I especially like Barbara Cairns’ use of language to enhance the story -- and bring it to life -- such as:
“His long tail twitched. His nose itched. His haunches hitched. SNAP! With a tremendous leap, Gatsby landed in the soft, green grass. He rolled in it. He nibbled it. He peeked through it. The grass tickled his belly.”
The concept of this series – fun experiences and education through art – is uplifting. Teachers and parents will appreciate the art information and websites provided at the end of the book. Children will enjoy each of Gatsby’s adventures in this and future paintings. We can hardly wait for Gatsby’s next adventure when we playfully jump into the painting with him!