O'Connor presents a juicy family album of Mary Cassatt's life and work through the guise of a school report by a fictional Claire Leonard. Claire jumps into her research as she describes general characteristics of Cassatt's work. Claire compares Cassatt's paintings to aspects of her own family life, such as her baby sister or the way her mother holds her sister. Whimsical cartoon illustrations carpet the pages of the book providing direction for Claire's story and research, as well as insight into the life of Mary Cassatt. O'Connor tells Mary Cassatt's story as one would recount the life and times of an eccentric yet beloved aunt. Funky borders and imbedded quotations add to the appeal of the book. The reader becomes truly acquainted with Cassatt's personality, history, desires, and quirks through O'Connor's unconventional biography. The pages are crowded with illustrations, comments, and quips, thus supplementing the book's intrigue and serving to build interest in the life of Mary Cassatt. Sophisticated themes are at work in this disarmingly cute book from the "Smart About Art" series, which offers much more than pictures, cartoons and an incredible layout. O'Connor offers a great deal more than a biography—this is a book of art, a comparison of impressionists, and a primer on critiquing and commenting on art. O'Connor has created a masterpiece, a blueprint for the way biographies should be written for kids. 2003, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin Putnam,
Gr 3-4-Cassatt's life and career are presented within the framework of a child's school assignment. Claire discovers the artist first through a postcard, then the Internet, and finally through a family trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The vivid illustrations are a combination of reproductions of Cassatt's work, Claire's cartoon drawings, and a few family photos. Biographical details about Cassatt's family life and relationship with Edgar Degas are simplified to the extreme; however, the author acknowledges that the artist was an intensely private woman and that little is known about her personal life. This slim, exuberant introduction to Cassatt's life and art is more appropriate for general-interest reading than for reports.-Toniann Scime, Amherst Museum, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.