Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: The Man in the Clouds

by Koos Meinderts
Illustrated by Annette Fienieg

Oh the bitter irony... a few hours after posting yesterday's blog entry about issues of buying and selling art, I came across this strange new children's book, The Man in the Clouds.

This is the story of a man who enjoys his simple life up in the mountains and sharing a beautiful painting he owns with his neighbors.  One day however someone tells him that the painting could be worth a lot of money so he starts suspecting that everyone wants to steal it.  He ostracizes his neighbors and makes his life miserable until he finally decides to BURN the painting freeing himself from the horrors of materialism.

I immediately took the book to the art class I teach for elementary age children yesterday afternoon.  I read them the story then asked these questions:

1- What would you do with the painting if you were the man?
2- Why did he come to hate the painting?
3- Why do you create art?
4- What is the difference between looking out the window at a landscape and creating a painting of the scene?
5- Would it bother you if someone burned your painting?

As you can imagine... I got some great answers from the kids.  I was most comforted when the kids said that they love creating art "just because it is fun."  That the enjoyment of the process gives the creation value.  Also one smart cookie said that he loves creating art to document the things he loves especially when he knows that those things will change over time.  (He wants to remember his grandmother's garden.  Sweetness!)

Something about the book rubbed me the wrong way (perhaps the overly zealous anti-materialism that is delivered packaged up in a book ready for purchase), but regardless as an art teacher I found it to be an excellent conversation starter.

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