There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky

Overview

When a child looks up to find drawings on the ceiling of a cave, she wonders how they were painted. Planets that spin, the birds and the beasts, woman and man—how did the old man in the sky paint it all? Based on the 1879 discovery of ceiling paintings in Spain’s Altamira Cave, this imaginative story expresses the awe of contemplating the creation of the world and locating beauty in an unexpected place. Children will revel in this timeless tale with truly breathtaking images.

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Overview

When a child looks up to find drawings on the ceiling of a cave, she wonders how they were painted. Planets that spin, the birds and the beasts, woman and man—how did the old man in the sky paint it all? Based on the 1879 discovery of ceiling paintings in Spain’s Altamira Cave, this imaginative story expresses the awe of contemplating the creation of the world and locating beauty in an unexpected place. Children will revel in this timeless tale with truly breathtaking images.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky:

“In ‘There Was an Old Man’ Teri Sloat weaves together disparate elements to great effect.”—Newsday

“Sloat offers a handsome, thought-provoking story…Vitale’s vibrant illustrations, in mixed media on board, reference both cave drawings and folk art. Appropriate for a wide audience, this will find its ideal fit with families wishing to impart similar beliefs about Earth’s beginnings to their children.”—Booklist

Fascinating and thought-provoking.”—Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Nancy Garhan Attebury
This alluring text paints a vivid creation story based on the ancient Altamira Cave paintings discovered by a young girl in 1879. It does so by following the cumulative pattern from There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. Readers are pulled in with the opening stanza, "There was an old man who painted the sky, But I don't know how he painted the sky—It's up so high!" Each spread gains new lines, from the creation of the moon through the creation of animal patterns, spots, and stripes, but there is more to the intriguing tale than that. Three additional spreads tell of the girl who first saw the cave paintings who "found the world round her painted on stone." Brilliant colors splash across the book's pages and enhance the already excellent tale. Some tantalizing illustrations come across looking like sparkling jewels. This book will be a wonderful supplement in elementary classrooms for history and poetry. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In the style of "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly," Sloat reflects upon the Stone Age paintings discovered by a young girl, in 1879, on the ceiling of the Altamira Cave in northern Spain. They seem to represent the creation of the world, and he tries to re-create the child's thoughts as she viewed them. Vitale's glorious mixed-media illustrations on board, bursting with beautifully toned colors and an array of eye-catching patterns and stylized figures, are clearly the focus here. They depict moon and sun, stars and planets, day and night, fish, birds, animals, and people, and an old man within a circle who appears to be the creator of it all. The paintings are filled with texture as well as color—smooth folds of cave rock; light-speckled waves in the ocean depths; the cracked surface of the moon. An author's note tells how the cave paintings were discovered. This reality-based piece shows that, since ancient times, people have tried to explain, through stories, how the world was created. However, the style of the text—repetitive, rhyming verses based on a familiar nonsense song—seems the wrong choice for this introduction to an important archaeological discovery, and Sloat's sometimes nonsensical verse with accompanying paintings of primitively drawn striped and spotted people does little to introduce young children to cave paintings.—Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
This intriguing creation story was inspired by a real event. An author's note informs readers that in 1879 an eight-year-old girl discovered primitive paintings on the ceiling of a cave in Spain. From this seed a vision spins out in Vitale's psychedelic, mixed-media illustrations and Sloat's energetic verse. Based loosely on the rhythm of the familiar folk song about the old woman who swallowed a fly, the cumulative text imagines an elderly, bearded creator who paints the sky, the stars, moon and sun, day and night, people, planets and animals into being. From there he passes the paints to his human creations, who decorate themselves and the world. Next comes "the child in a cave all alone" who finds the images on the ceiling. While the text may have been motivated by historical events, the child depicted is in modern dress, which may confuse literal-minded readers. Most young listeners, however, will be too busy poring over the pictures and pondering the great mystery to worry too much about the details. Fascinating and thought-provoking. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805067514
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 7/21/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,178,861
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

TERI SLOAT is the author of more than twenty books for children, including There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout! A former teacher, she lives north of San Francisco.

STEFANO VITALE has illustrated many acclaimed books, including Why War Is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker and When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow. He lives in Venice, Italy.

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