The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau


Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.

Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel's vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the ...

See more details below
$12.13 price
(Save 28%)$17.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (16) from $9.20   
  • New (8) from $9.20   
  • Used (8) from $13.64   
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.
Sending request ...


Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.

Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel's vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

Winner of the 2013 PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
Hall's evocation of Rousseau's lush jungles captures the artist's child-friendly work; Markel's text is both accessible and likely to awe.
Publishers Weekly
“Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist. Not a single person has ever told him he is talented. He’s a toll collector. He’s forty years old. But he buys some canvas, paint, and brushes, and starts painting anyway.” Markel’s account of Rousseau’s humility and amateur passion for art strikes just the right tone—it’s jaunty, confiding, and affectionate. Hall’s (Tales from India) acrylic and watercolor paintings celebrate Rousseau’s style without parodying it or dumbing it down. She alternates between spreads of the painter at work in the wild jungles of his own imagination—flying through the air in excitement as he discovers images that inspire him—and paintings of the modest surroundings in which he lives and the dour critics who sit in judgment of him. Markel (Tyrannosaurus Math) describes Rousseau’s poverty, generosity, freedom of spirit, and—finally—the recognition he achieves. It’s a story about a painter who isn’t driven by an enormous ego or a Promethean will but the simple love of color and form in nature—a love that Hall excels at expressing. Ages 5–9. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Told in the present tense, the story of the life of painter Henri Rousseau begins with his first purchase of paints at the age of forty. He is a toll collector with no training but with a love of nature. He studies other artists' paintings, photos, and illustrations. When he wheels his paintings in a cart to an art exhibition, the reviews are not good. Inspired by exhibits from other lands and visits to plants in hothouses, Henri continues to paint animals and plants from far away. Still the art experts make fun of him. But Henri paints on. By the time he is sixty-one, he is very poor and still mocked. But younger artists, along with his neighbors, come to the concerts in his studio. When Picasso throws a banquet for him, his reputation is made. Now his paintings hang in museums. Hall uses one of Rousseau's brilliant jungle paintings as a reference for the jacket but with a change: the artist himself is seen stretched out in his black suit on a bright red sofa in the jungle. The end pages give another example of his imaginative jungle filled with aggressively colorful flowers and staring animals. Visualized in Rousseau's style, the concise biography informs about his life, style, and also some of his artist contemporaries. Acrylics and watercolors produce scenes that convey his almost flamboyant use of color along with his life. There are informative notes by author and illustrator as well as a key to the famous historical figures shown in some of the spreads. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3—Drawing on the naïve techniques found in the paintings of the 19th-century French toll collector, Hall depicts Rousseau's life while introducing his style and subject matter in her fanciful watercolor and acrylic scenes. Markel's well-chosen episodes begin with the purchase of his first paints and brushes-at age 40. Compact sentences convey this self-taught artist's rocky journey, leaving room for Hall's interpretation. One dynamic composition propels Rousseau, clad in black, toward readers; one eye is enlarged behind a magnifying glass as he studies and scatters colorful postcards, catalogs, and paintings from the Louvre. Humor is conveyed even when his art is being rejected by the Salon experts. As the tiny man wheels his cart of canvases up to imposing, bewhiskered figures in tuxedos, close inspection reveals that some are monkeys. An author's note highlights Rousseau's reaction to the exotic plants at the Jardin des Plantes: "…it's as though he enters into a dream. It's like he is someone else completely." Hall's portrait accompanying that idea in the narrative is formed from greenery, flowers, and wheat-part Rousseau, part Arcimboldo. The 1889 International Exhibition also opened the artist's world; afterward, his jungle canvases came to life, and a tiger crawled into his studio. Ultimately, he was fêted by luminaries identified in the illustrator's note. This is not only a visually exciting introduction to a well-known artist, but also an uplifting model of passion and perseverance. Pair it with Doris Kutschbach's Henri Rousseau's Jungle Book (Prestel, 2005) for a slightly different perspective.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A charming, affecting picture-book life of France's most celebrated naive painter--Henri Rousseau. Around 1884, when he was in his 40s, Rousseau determined that he needed to transcend his life as a customs officer and began to recreate himself as an artist. Though he had no formal training and few financial resources, he persevered and created countless canvases that showcased his unique, almost magical personal visions, visions that continue to resonate with young and old alike. Rousseau was ridiculed repeatedly by critics and artists, yet he continued to create his exotic, seemingly unsophisticated paintings. His lush tropical scenes were fueled by visits to the botanic gardens; his exotic animals were inspired by visits to the zoo. Though he remained a perpetual outsider, the Parisian avant-garde eventually embraced the visionary Rousseau, honoring him at a 1908 banquet (organized by Picasso himself). Markel's simple, poetic text ("tropical plants fruit and flower into garlands, rockets, and rosettes of color") is matched with Hall's vivid, venturesome illustrations. The bright watercolor-and-acrylic paintings have an impressive vitality and wonderfully channel Rosseau's fantastic motifs and his characteristic use of flattened shapes and perspectives. This lovely, child-friendly biography evokes and celebrates this fabulous naif. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802853646
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 9/1/2012
  • Pages: 34
  • Sales rank: 379,437
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Markel is the author of many children's books, including Tyrannosaurus Math (Tricycle/Random House) and Dreamer from the Village: The Story of Marc Chagall (Henry Holt). Michelle lives in California. Visit her website at

Amanda Hall has illustrated many books for children, including Tales from India (Candlewick), Prince of the Birds (Frances Lincoln), and The Stolen Sun (Eerdmans). Amanda lives in England. Visit her website at

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

By Michelle Markel

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2012 Michelle Markel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5364-6

Chapter One

Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist. Not a single person has ever told him he is talented. He's a toll collector. He's forty years old.

But he buys some canvas, paint, and brushes, and starts painting anyway.

Why? Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it's like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him.

Henri can't afford art lessons, so he has to be his own art teacher. He goes to the Louvre and examines the satiny paintings of his favorite artists.

To learn about anatomy, he studies photographs and illustrations from postcards, magazines, and catalogues.

One day Henri reads about a big art exhibition. He puts his canvases in a handcart and wheels them to the building where the show will be held. He's forty-one years old, and this is the very first time he'll display his work! He can hardly wait to hear what the experts will say.

Mean things. That's what most of them write. But Henri snips out the articles anyway, and pastes them in a scrapbook.

Henri walks around the city, gathering ideas for his pictures. He goes to the World's Fair, where a man named Eiffel has built a latticed tower of metal rising several hundred feet into the air.

What thrills Henri most are the fair's exhibits of villages from distant lands. They remind him of adventure stories he loved when he was a boy.

Days later, Henri can still picture the plants and animals from faraway places. He holds his paintbrush to the canvas. A tiger crawls out. Lightning strikes, and wind whips the jungle grass.

Sometimes Henri is so startled by what he paints that he has to open the window to let in some air.


Excerpted from The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel Copyright © 2012 by Michelle Markel. Excerpted by permission of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)