An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.


If Picasso Went To The Zoo


From the If Picasso series

In this children’s book, 50 teachers create works emulating their favorite artists, with a twist.

In this follow-up to If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree (2014), Gibbons has again asked art teachers (elementary level to high school) to contribute works that introduce artists to child readers through pastiche. This time, each image includes an animal whose name is alliterative with the artist’s: Picasso and polar bear, Harriet Powers and pelican, Alice Baber and bison. As that short lists shows, the artists chosen stray far beyond the usual suspects. Genres range from Renaissance to contemporary styles, with interesting results for the less representational works, such as a minimalist tarantula consisting of eight rectangular pillars striped with color. Other contributors solve this problem by including a realistic element among an abstract rendering: Jackson Pollock’s entry, for example, includes a recognizable pig among the drips and splashes. In addition, a key provides information on each animal’s endangerment status, and inter-curricular lesson extensions are available online. Gibbons, an artist and educator, writes a 10-line rhymed introduction for each work. The poem aims to give a sense of the artist’s style, each beginning “If [name] went to the zoo, / is this the kind of illustration she [or he] would do?” The rest of the verse gives some information about the artist and/or subject as well as the animal being depicted. Unfortunately, Gibbons’ lines are often padded with unnecessary words or meaningless phrases (for example, “it just feels so right”), making them less effective. Also, young readers are unlikely to catch allusions like “for more than 15, this man [Warhol] was a star.” The other difficulty with the author’s format is that his intended audience probably doesn’t know the originals, making the pastiche less effective. Wouldn’t the best way to introduce and honor artists be through their own pieces? And illustrators children might know, such as Beatrix Potter or Arthur Rackham, already include many animals in their works, making their possible zoo-inspired pictures not much of a leap. In others, like a charming Lichtenstein-inspired leopard, the zoo/artist concept succeeds.

 An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940290-42-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Firehouse Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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