This import is a refreshing graphic-novel–inflected collaboration by two living artists about a third.
Ascari (aka Elfo) has enjoyed a long career as a cartoonist and illustrator in his native Italy. Writer and illustrator Valentinis has won the prestigious Italian Hans Christian Andersen illustration award. Their focus? The ever accessible French impressionist Claude Monet and his amazing, carefully planned, created garden in Giverny. This garden is at once the culmination of his life’s work, his preferred canvas, and an enduring inspiration. The spare text is well-paced with carefully selected details. Illustrations feature strong, black graphic lines and wonderful flat expanses of color that echo the Japanese prints that inspired the impressionists. The real star here is the garden. Ascari and Valentinis help readers see Monet’s vision and watch the garden develop and grow. They meet Monet’s dedicated team of gardeners and see how they went off to fight in World War I (clad in distinctive red Zouave pantaloons). The book’s design uses the interior front and back cover boards to amplify the text with information on the belle époque and Giverny’s seasonal flowers and shrubs. A few seemingly dropped-in pages include brief biographies of major impressionists, gardening tools, and a précis of Monet’s life.
A handsome, appealing, informative look at an artist who continues to fascinate. (Informational picture book. 6-10)