After three years out of print, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk and Lena Anderson is back! It makes me happy when wonderful old books get new life, and Linnea in Monet’s Garden is one of my favorites.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden was one of a handful of picture books I owned before I had kids. It was not a book I acquired merely by happenstance, rummaging through someone’s discard pile. To the contrary, one day when I was in college, I headed down to my local independent bookstore and asked if the owners could special order Linnea in Monet’s Garden for me.
Why Linnea in Monet’s Garden? I had fond memories of plenty of other books from my childhood: The Very Young Dancer, the Frog and Toad books, Mike Thaler’s classic The Moose is Loose… Linnea in Monet’s Garden stuck with me, I believe, because it describes a young girl’s travels to Paris in such detail that I could imagine hopping on an airplane and experiencing Paris myself. There is a good chance that I will never make it to Paris. However, thanks to Christina Björk and Lena Anderson and their curious and charming tourguide Linnea, I have had the pleasure of visiting many times over in the pages of this book.
When Linnea and her friend Mr. Bloom visit Paris, they do not visit the Eiffle Tower or the Louvre. Oh no! Their adventure is much, much better. Linnea and Mr. Bloom stay in “the loveliest hotel in the whole city” with a view of Notre-Dame Cathedral, walls made of uneven stones, and ancient beams in the ceiling. They enjoy a picnic by the River Ru complete with baguette, pate and nectarines. They awake early on the final morning of their trip to watch the sunrise over the Seine.
Illustrator Lena Anderson incorporated old photographs of Monet, recent photographs of Giverny, images of Monet’s paintings, and pressed leaves and other found objects into her paintings. The scrapbook-like feel of the illustrations contribute to the sense that Giverny and Paris are real places that readers could visit.
I have not yet mentioned the fact that Linnea in Monet’s Garden is the best introduction to impressionism that I have ever read! And, it is. It absolutely is. Björk uses the characters of Linnea and Mr. Bloom to discuss art in a way that will fascinate children. When Linnea and Mr. Bloom visit museums to see Monet’s paintings, Linnea reacts with natural curiosity: “I noticed that the lilies were nothing but blobs and blotches of paint. But when I stepped away again, they turned into real water lilies floating in a pond–magic! ‘How could he know how to paint like that?’ I asked Mr. Bloom.” The knowledgable Mr. Bloom then shares information about how Monet painted and what art critics initially thought of his work. He shares stories about each of the paintings they see.
While Linnea in Monet’s Garden offers readers a fantastic introduction to impressionism, this does not explain why the story endures 25 years after it was first published in English. Linnea in Monet’s Garden endures, I think, because Linnea is an unforgettable and completely charming character and because this story transports readers in a way that no other picture book that I can think of does.
Recommended For: Linnea in Monet’s Garden will appeal to outdoorsy, artistic and adventurous kids ages 6+. It can also be used by art teachers to teach kids about impressionism and Monet.
One lucky reader will win a copy of Linnea in Monet’s Garden!
For an opportunity to win, leave a comment below by Wednesday, October 24th, 11:59 pm EST. One entry per person. This contest is open to readers in the United States and Canada. This post is one in a series of posts celebrating Linnea in Monet’s Garden‘s 25th Anniversary. (See Celebrate Linnea’s Birthday!) If you leave a comment below, you will also have the opportunity to win a grand prize that will be announced on October 25th.