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Mario's Angels
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Mario's Angels

by Mary Arrigan, Gillian McClure (Illustrator), Gillian Mclure (Illustrator)

Giotto is decorating a chapel with frescoes, and little Mario longs to lend a hand, but Giotto says no. When Father Prior comes to inspect the fresco, he says, "The sky is too dull. Fix it." So Mario tries to think up ways of brightening the sky. That night, after watching his baby sister, he dreams of wonderful things that will transform Mario's frescoes:


Giotto is decorating a chapel with frescoes, and little Mario longs to lend a hand, but Giotto says no. When Father Prior comes to inspect the fresco, he says, "The sky is too dull. Fix it." So Mario tries to think up ways of brightening the sky. That night, after watching his baby sister, he dreams of wonderful things that will transform Mario's frescoes: angels!

Mary Arrigan's lively, informative text, accompanied by Gilliam McLure's delightful illustrations, reveals what made Giotto di Bondone's work so very special. Together with a note on Giotto and his frescoes, a reproduction of Giotto's Nativity and a photograph of the Scrovegni Chapel, the book gives very young readers a perfect introduction to the 13th-century artist who reintroduced the art of drawing living people from nature, and is known as the father of modern painting.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The beautifully illustrated Mario's Angels provides children with a friendly and charming introduction to the work of Giotto.
Publishers Weekly
This winsome story playfully posits why the 14th-century Italian painter Giotto includes angels in his famous Nativity fresco in Padua. Arrigan (Chocolate Moon) presents the winged additions as afterthoughts inspired by the artist's young "assistant," Mario. When Mister Giotto (credited as "the father of European painting," according to an endnote) explains, "I like my people to look real and move about," the ever-present and energetic Mario replies, "I'm real,... and I move about a lot. Can I be in your fresco?" The master gently rebuffs the youngster's offers until Giotto's patron comments that "something in the sky" is missing from the fresco, and the boy offers a solution. Lively watercolors in subdued hues sweetly convey the boy's exuberance as well as the painter's patience, and nicely echo the text's earnest, childlike tone. For example, three panels filling the top half of a spread depict Mario (and his puppy) scaling and swinging from the scaffolding while Giotto-with only boots and paint-splattered smock visible-works above. The artist's solemn, loving expressions toward his companion's steady inquiries and Mario's constant bustle deliver a delightful subtext. McClure's (Tog the Ribbler) softly edged, yet dynamic illustrations seemingly pay homage to Giotto's use of movement and emotion. In an uplifting scene, rough sketches of angels float above a dancing Mario, who happily serves as Giotto's model. Ages 5-8. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
The 13th-14th century Italian painter Giotto is introduced through a fictional character, young Mario, who admires the work of the artist in the now famous Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. When Father Prior tells him something is missing in the sky of his painting, Giotto feels sad. Mario determines to help him. That night, as his father tosses his "little angel" sister into the air, Mario feels that he has the answer to Giotto's problem. Giotto takes Mario's idea of angels and uses Mario for his model. Those angels fill the sky of Giotto's famous Nativity scene in the chapel, to Father Prior's and Mario's satisfaction. McClure's soft-toned watercolors create a very appealing youngster and a puppy who adds action to every scene. They are placed in simple settings of the time. The author and illustrator have simplified the fresco process, which required a team to work with the painter. But the characters are depicted with vitality, Giotto's drawings with close attention to the originals. Above all, Mario helps the reader become involved with the art-making in multiple vignettes. Additional facts about Giotto and frescos are included, along with a reproduction of the Nativity scene and a photograph of the chapel.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A fictionalized introduction to "the Father of European Painting." Mario, an exuberant boy, visits the artist as he works on his fresco Nativity in Padua. He asks many questions and eagerly volunteers assistance. Although Giotto declines his offers of help, he patiently explains his work and style. When the artist is at a loss about how to fill the sky, Mario suggests angels. Not only does Giotto take his suggestion, but he also uses the energetic child as his model. The gentle text is matched by light, airy colors and feathery movement in the art. The cherubic Mario is full of life and will seem very real to readers. Children will probably not understand the factual information, but they will appreciate the story. This is a good addition for libraries that circulate other art stories such as Laurence Anholt's Degas and the Little Dancer (1996) and Camille and the Sunflowers (1994, both Barron's). Endnotes about the artist and frescoes are appended.-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mario is a little boy, with a dog, who hovers around the artist Giotto as he paints a fresco of the Nativity in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy in the 13th century. When Father Prior comes in to say Giotto's sky is dull, Giotto is upset, but Mario brings him the idea of his little sister Bianca as an angel. Giotto sketches a dancing, frolicking Mario as an angel, fills his Nativity sky with angels and everyone is pleased. While the text and notes mention how Giotto made his figures look real, as if they moved about and had expression, it does so at the expense of describing earlier painting as stiff and emotionless. The idea of perspective or of changing views of how art reflects humanity isn't mentioned at all, and it could be, even at this level. Greeting-card images of late medieval life-and that puppy-reinforce the cute at the expense of the story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Product Details

Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 11.75(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Mary Arrigan studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, University College, Dublin and Florence University. She taught art for 18 years before starting to write for children. She was awarded the International Youth Library (Munich) White Ravens title in 1997, the Bisto Merit Award in 2000 and has also won The Sunday Times Crime Writers Association Short Story Award and The Hennessy Short Story Award. Her books for Frances Lincoln include Mario's Angels and Esty's Gold.To visit Mary Arrigan's website click hereGillian McClure's titles include Tinker Jim and Tog the Ribber which were shortlisted for the Smarties Book Award. Tog the Ribber was also Highly Commended for the Kate Greenaway Award. Selkie won the Parents' Guide to Children's Media Award USA 2000. Gillian illustrated Mary Arrigan's Mario's Angels for Frances Lincoln. Gillian lives in Cambridge.

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