Walking into James Mayhew’s world

One of our favourite authors is James Mayhew, and we came across his books by chance, at the British Museum when I was there with hubby and K (at 18 months).  I usually don’t buy stuff at museum shops, but ended up buying two titles by him that day.
Was pleased to later find that our libraries also stock his books! They comprise all the elements of a good children’s book to me – lovely illustrations, captivating imaginative storyline that blurs the line between fiction and fantasy, themes that appeal to young children written in simple language, yet on themes that are not childish.
I also liked the fact that so many of his books were Art focused, which made it a great way to introduce young ones to the slightly more abstract concept of Great Art.
Reading-level wise, there are about 3-5 sentences at the bottom of each page (that carries huge illustrations), and is suitable for reading aloud to children from 2.5 to 5 years old.  Perhaps around 4 years of age, kids will be interested in reading some words/sentences themselves.  But it’s not really a “I can read” or “Peter and Jane” type book (which to me has no/very thin plot!), not until the children are 5 or 6 I think.
Today, I am reviewing “Katie and the WaterLily Pond”, a delightful book about Katie’s adventures at a Monet Exhibition, whilst her grandma naps in the gallery (a very common premise of the books).
JM1^ Proof that our glorious NLB stocks this – though the tag usually annoys me cos it obscures a good part of most book covers argh.
Here are glimpses into the pages of the book…
JM2 JM3 JM4Realised that I had acquired this print during my student days too!  Can’t remember which museum from, but was very pleased to unearth it to feature in this blog activity and post.
The story features Katie wandering in and out of five Monet Masterpieces, and trying to paint one to enter into the museum’s competition for children.  (spoiler ahead) After various botched attempts, she decides that nothing could go wrong in a peaceful waterlily pond, and tries to enter that painting to capture what she can see. Alas!  a little green frog in the pond snatches her painting and drops it into the pond! when she fishes it out, the colours have all smudged together.
Voila! the judges decide that the watery painting is most Monet, and Katie wins the competition.
So our craft task (simple one) was to reproduce this painting.  I toyed with the idea of watercolours, but didn’t think I had the right ones. So I figured we could try making an impressionist crayon drawing instead!
JM5
With my favourite $2 soft crayon set from Daiso. I held K’s hand and guided her drawing of the bridge, then drew a few waterlily pads and asked her to go over them with white to get a more blurry smudged effect.
JM6
Then I realised I could just shade in the vague shades of light and green, where they were supposed to appear, and go over those with light green or white to get the right effect!  K enjoyed dotting in the pink waterlily flowers – no surprise, that!
It was a fun exercise, and an interesting activity to bond over, that I wouldn’t have thought of if not for this review.
As promised earlier, here’s more about the titles I bought.  Katie in London is about how one of the huge stone lions of Trafalgar’s Square bring Katie and her little brother Jack, traisping all over the key sights in London.
Jm7 katie in london
The other book I purchased in Apr 2010 was “Katie and the Impressionists” but unfortunately I have no idea where it went, and could not take a photo of the cover page.
For that book, I remember that it had a photo of Van Gogh’s Night Cafe. I was quite chuffed to be able to cart out a 5000 piece puzzle that the hubs and I had completed, pre-parenthood, and show it to K.  Cos I have no one else to show it off to, here it is for the www in its fully glory!  Nice, right??
JM8 van gogh
So all in all, I’d really recommend James Mayhew’s books, and do grab a copy from your local library, or from the books depository which also carries them.
Enjoy!

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