Feb 4, 2013

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Michelle Markel

Illustrated by:  Amanda Hall

Published by: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Published on: June 11, 2012

Ages: 5+

Henri Rousseau is such an inspiration to desk-jockeys who have a passion for something creative. He proves that it is never too late to do what you love, and that listening to your inner voice is more important than critical voices that surround you. I'm not sure that kids will relate as much to the first message as their parents will. But every kid will experience peer pressure at some point so knowing that others have not only had to deal with that but also have been able to be a success is good to know.

The star of this book is definitely the art. It must be intimidating to illustrate a biography of an artist, as the balance between the original art and the story that needs to be told is delicate. It must be more intimidating when the subject's art is so famous. But Hall strikes the perfect balance.

Hall's homage to Henri is reflected best in the Paris spread, where you can see shadows of some of Rousseau's most famous landscapes, including my favourite, Notre Dame View of the Ile Saint Louis from the Quai Henri IV, as well as Landscape with Bridge and others. She includes Rousseau the same way he included himself- but there are many more as he journeys through the city and through the art world.

To young kids what might be most fascinating is the animals. My son loved the tiger (Surprised!) of course. More sensitive children might be disturbed by the spread of Rousseau painting The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope. It was of course a favourite of both my kids ("mama, that looks delicious, can we eat antelope sashimi?")

This was an amazing introduction to the naïve art style, which is really appealing to kids with its vibrant colours and visible passion.

This post is for Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Apples with Many Seeds.


  1. I loved this book, too. I'm with you about how the animals are the stars of this production.
    Thanks for contributing to today's Nonfiction Monday event.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. Great review! I love the way you weave in your kids' comments. I was just at a museum and having read this book recently, I looked at the Rousseau paintings differently-- the power of books, right?!


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