If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may remember those portraits on the wall that came to life. Before the “Fat Lady” was grudgingly opens the door to Gryffindor Tower, Jon Agee had created living portraits in his children’s book – The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau.
When Felix, an unknown French painter, enters his painting of a duck in the “Grand Contest of Art,” others ridicule his simplicity – until the duck quacks – earning Clousseau the grand prize. With illustrations that are reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s style, Agee continues the incredible story with a boa constrictor that slithers out of the frame and a cannon that fires out of the picture – until the poor artist is sent to jail and all his pictures confiscated.
The one portrait of a dog still hanging in the royal palace wakes up one night to catch a thief trying to steal the crown. Clousseau is exonerated and awarded the Medal of Honor. The last page may be the best – with the old painter walking into the frame.
Children’s author Kristin Cashore listed The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau as a book with a “perfect ending.” I agree; have you read it?
10 Reasons I liked Maurice Sendak:
- He was gruff and tough and reminded me of my short grandfather.
- He wrote honestly and never talked down to children.
- He was a natural talent, never taking a class in how to write or how to draw.
- He grew up in Brooklyn and lived in Connecticut.
- He stayed with his partner for 50 years.
- He loved dogs.
- He laughed when the librarians drew a diaper on his drawing of a naked baby.
- He scowled when they tried to ban his books.
- He reinvented himself in old age, designing scenery for operas.
- He inspired children; he inspired me.
I was hoping to see him return to the Colbert Report, but his endorsement (The sad thing is, I like it) of Colbert’s “I Am A Pole” book on his first visit will always be one of my favorite shows.
Luckily, he left behind lots of books with his signature style.
Related Post: Review of Bumble-ardy
Penelope Lively’s 1994 picture book – Good Night, Sleep Tight – is an echo of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (published in 1963). Not as scary as Sendak, Lively has stuffed animals leading their little girl owner to adventures in their native habitats – the stuffed lion in the jungle, the stuffed frog in the swamp, the cat into the dark night, and finally, her doll takes her to a party. The dream sequence is easy to follow and colorfully illustrated by Adriano Gon.
Lively is a prolific author of both children and adult books; this one might make a good bedtime story.
Read Reviews of Lively’s Other Books:
Maurice Sendak, famous for his art and irreverent storylines in Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There, has written his first book in thirty years. Although Bumble-Ardy is a pig, he has a strong resemblance to Max, the little boy who ruled the wild things, but he seems to be missing some of Max’s courage.
After Bumble-Ardy’s parents “got ate,” he goes to live with his Aunt Adeline, who gives him his first birthday party. He is nine years old, and Sendak plays on the number –
To come for birthday cake and brine at ten past nine
His aunt leaves for work, and Bumble-Ardy throws his own wild party, inviting lots of “grubby swine.” The pigs are the wild things dressed in costumes – with pages and pages of Sendak’s art telling the story with few words. Of course, Adeline is not happy when she comes home to find “a mob of swilling swine.”
Sendak likes to add a little terror to the humor. Not for the faint-hearted, Sendak’s stories and art play on the child’s inner monsters. I met Sendak years ago, and he seemed as fierce in person, and a little sad – true to his writing.
If today is your birthday, have a wild and fun party.