Review: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This captivating picture book biography of Rousseau is illustrated in a style very reminiscent of Rosseau’s art work, with flat, bright colors and often lush, dreamlike settings. There was so much I did not know: that Rousseau did not start painting until around age 40 (it’s never too late to follow your dreams!), was self-taught as he could not afford art classes, and critics really did not like/appreciate his work. Around the critics Rousseau is a very small figure — they tower over him, and include two animal-like humans in their midst (a dog and a cat.) Happily, a younger group of artists DID recognize Rousseau’s talent later in his life.

I love how historical figures are included in the illustrations; in the notes the illustrator provides a diagram of “who’s who” — including Picasso, Gertrude & Leo Stein, Alice B. Tolkas, among others. I appreciated the carefully chosen, evocative language as well. For example, in answer to “why” Rousseau began painting:
“Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it’s like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him.”

The facing page is filled with brilliant orange & red flowers, a round orange sun, and purple hued leaves . . . an interesting color combination. Amanda Hall’s illustrations are watercolor and acrylics. A great introduction to Rousseau for elementary age children.

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