Part biography, part history, part exploration of Spinoza’s philosophy: wholly engaging.
The philosopher Benedict de Spinoza was born Bento Spinoza in 1632—a son of Jewish parents who had fled persecution in Portugal to settle in the relatively safe Amsterdam Jewish community known as the Nation. Raised and educated in the Jewish faith, Spinoza nonetheless began developing alarming (to his Jewish community) ideas about religion, culminating in his cherem—excommunication—at 23. Undaunted, he moved to another part of Amsterdam, took up the trade of lens grinding and continued his studies. Influenced by the writings of René Descartes, Spinoza developed a philosophy that promoted rational inquiry and tolerance over blind acceptance of tradition and superstition, especially in the matters of religion and government. Needless to say, religious and government leaders considered his views threatening. Generally reviled during his lifetime, Spinoza’s influence on future generations has nonetheless been far-reaching, informing the thoughts of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein, among others. Throughout this ambitious and thorough narrative, Lehmann does an outstanding job of illuminating Spinoza’s concepts in a clear, concise and logical manner and gives them contextual relevance by illuminating the pertinent political and social upheavals of the time. Archival illustrations add depth to the narrative.
Clarity, accessibility and spot-on relevance to issues facing modern society make this a must-read.
(sources, notes, index)
(Nonfiction. 13 & up)
Pitamic bites off more than she can chew with this instructional art volume, but its core projects will excite in the right context. Twelve pieces of fine art inspire two art projects apiece. Matisse’s The Snail opens the Color section; after history and analysis, there’s one project arranging multicolored tissue-paper squares and one project adding hue to white paint to create stripes of value gradation. These creative endeavors exploring value, shade, texture and various media will exhilarate young artists—but only with at best semi-successful results, as they require an adult dedicated to both advance material procurement and doing the artwork along with the child. Otherwise, complex instructions plus a frequent requirement to draw or trace realistically will cause frustration. Much of the text is above children’s heads, errors of terminology and reproduction detract and the links between the famous pieces and the projects are imprecise. However, an involved adult and an enterprising child aged seven to ten will find many of the projects fabulously challenging and rewarding. Art In Action 2 (ISBN: 978-0-7641-441-7) publishes simultaneously. (artist biographies, glossary, location of originals) (Nonfiction. Adults)
Just add water (and a little paper, some crayons and pencils) for instant and inspiring art projects.
This third art-education book by Prince is a deep well of resources for experienced teachers who want to supplement their existing curriculum or for a caregiver who is in search of a meaningful project to share with a child. Prince touches upon such topics as how to define art, how pervasive visual communication is in our world, and how vital it is that we become “bilingual” in the language of art. She also discusses the benefits of having students keep portfolios and the importance of honest criticism and praise when critiquing children's artwork. Included is a concise and user-friendly overview of various elements and principles of art, such as contrast, texture and composition, as well as a beautifully simple discussion about color, including definitions of hue, value and intensity, and primary, complementary and tertiary colors. There are more than 65 easy-to-follow projects neatly divided into the activities' environments: lessons for an afternoon in the city, the park, at the art museum or at home. The author even includes a referenced cross-index that lists the specific principles and elements taught in each project. Most lessons are, by design, suited for children as well as adults, and the supplies required are generally inexpensive and easily obtainable. Photographs and illustrations of the projects and principles add a visual dimension.
Though not for the rank amateur, a handy resource for artistically minded teens and adults who work with children.
(Nonfiction. 14 & up)