Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Art & Max by David Wiesner

Arthur is a lizard.  Sort of a pointy lizard.  Max is another lizard, but he’s more smooth-ish.  (Hey, I’m a reading teacher, not a herpetologist.)  At the beginning of Art & Max, Arthur is painting a portrait of another smooth-ish lizard when Max rushes up and says, “Hey, Art, that’s great!”

“The name is Arthur,” Arthur reminds Max.  Undeterred, Max announces that he too can paint.  Arthur isn’t excited about the idea, but he allows Max to paint as long as he doesn’t get in the way.  With his supplies and blank canvas ready to go, Max realizes he doesn’t know what to paint.

“Well … you could paint me,” suggests Arthur.  Needing no further encouragement, the blue, yellow, and orange paint flies off Max’s brush.  Directly onto Arthur.

No, that isn’t what Arthur meant when he said, “You could paint me.”

But that’s exactly what Max has done.  Arthur, now transformed into a Jackson Pollock-ish pointy lizard, is enraged.  He screams Max’s name and the now dry paint cracks, flakes, and bursts off of Arthur to reveal another artistic layer.  Chalk.  Max helps Arthur get rid of the chalk, only to reveal another artistic layer.  Layer after layer is removed, each revealing Arthur artistically rendered in another medium.  Eventually, after several artistic transformations, Arthur is left as the shell of himself.  He’s just a pencil outline.

It gets even worse for poor Arthur before it gets better, but Max’s final solution is both amazing and fascinating, even to Arthur.

David Wiesner has created another artistic gem.  What Flotsam did for photographers, what June 29, 1999 did for gardeners, what Tuesday did for herpetologists, Art & Max will do for art teachers*.  The story is simple, but Wiesner’s tour through several artistic media is what makes his latest book a must have for classrooms.

*Okay, I don’t know for certain that photographers, gardeners, or herpetologists necessarily benefited from Wiesner’s books, but art teachers, yes, get yourselves a copy of Art & Max.

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