Katie Meets the Impressionists


Written and Illustrated by James Mayhew

Orchard Books, 1997

It was Grandma’s birthday, and for a special treat she took Katie to the art museum.

The plot in a nutshell: A girl wanders through the paintings in a museum

Katie and her Grandma walk through the museum looking at the paintings. Katie mentions that they just look like dabs of paint close up and Grandma tells her that you have to stand back to see the picture. Katie sees a Monet painting called The Luncheon and wishes she could give Grandma some of the flowers from the painting’s garden. She closes her eyes and imagines she can smell the flowers and when she opens her eyes, she’s in the painting, where she meets Claude Monet’s son, Jean. She returns to the museum, but notices her flowers are wilting, so she steps into Renoir’s Girl with a Watering Can. Throughout their day at the museum, Katie visits many paintings and finally delivers her flowers to Grandma. Then she notices a paintbrush in her pocket that belonged to Monet, so she leaves it in a picture frame for him.

Author James Mayhew is all about cultural education and it shines through in pretty much everything he does. This book is one in a series that got its start in 1989 when readers first met this art loving little girl in Katie’s Picture Show. Another dozen books followed, with Katie jumping into specific works for art or, in this book’s case, a style of art. Mr. Mayhew doesn’t stop there, though. He also hosts concerts introducing children to various classical compositions and even opera, providing narration and live illustration. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

I imagine Degas always wanted a little girl with flowers in this picture.

I imagine Degas always wanted a little girl with flowers in this picture.

As you may expect, the artwork is a huge component of this book and it is wonderfully clever, showing Katie as a natural part of a tableau on one page and then a shot of the referenced painting on another page. As you may also expect, an informational page is included at the end with further information about each artist and all of the featured paintings. This series is sure to be a hit with budding artists. A new Christmas book in the Katie series is due out this year.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s hard not to get caught up in wonderful artwork.


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