Yesterday was World Refugee Day. This week, Refugee Week is celebrated in many parts of the world. When we think of refugees, we don’t often remember that famous artists, like Irving Berlin, the subject of my review last week, and the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book, were refugees, too. Thankfully, both found refuge when they needed it.
Title: Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life and Art
Written By: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated By: Mary GrandPré
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf/2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: modern art, refugee, biography, Judaism
Through the window, the boy sees…Papa, trudging home from work, wool coat shiny with the salt of fish. Mama, sprinkling today’s gossip like bits of sugar from her shop next door.
Brief Synopsis: The biography of the modern artist, Marc Chagall, a young boy who observed life outside his window in Russia, dreamt of color, fled to Paris and then New York, and created paintings, sculptures and stained glass.
Links to Resources:
- Draw a picture of what you see outside your window;
- Try one of these 25 stained glass craft ideas;
- Try one or more of the 7 Simple Acts to help change the way we view refugees, and ourselves;
- Celebrate “You, Me and Those Who Came Before” with these classroom resources.
Why I Like this Book:
In lyrical language that mimics the rhythms of Chagall’s autobiography, Rosenstock recounts this artist’s life from boyhood to his last artistic undertakings. In text that summons up several of Chagall’s masterpieces, Rosenstock asks readers to notice what Chagall, as boy, student, misfit, painter, revolutionary, and master, saw and created. I love how Rosenstock draws our attention to the illustrations and to Chagall’s dreams that became his artistic creations.
I also appreciate how Rosenstock recounts where and why Chagall moved, without letting that overwhelm the focus on his artistry. We learn that Chagall fled Russia to escape anti-Semitism and the “glittering city” of St. Petersburg, filled with many poor people who were ignored; that he grew disillusioned with the authoritarian Soviet government, and fled once again to Paris; and that he sought refuge in America when “war stomps across France.” Had America not accorded Chagall refugee status, this Jewish artist may not have survived the Holocaust.
We also learn that Chagall did not begin creating the stained glass windows for which he is so famous until after these experiences, when he was older (in the Author’s Note, we learn that Chagall was 70 when he designed his first original window). I appreciate Rosenstock’s focus on Chagall’s “second career”, as I think it shows readers that talent doesn’t end when someone reaches a certain age, and that it’s never too late to try new pursuits.
GrandPré’s rich acrylic on board illustrations utilize Chagall’s rich palette and further the reader’s immersion into his life and work.
A Note about Craft:
Rosenstock uses a window motif to organize Chagall’s life by age, location and work. She repeats “[t]hrough the window” seven times, each time showing the reader what Chagall sees. I think this is a wonderful way to provide repetition in the text and tie different stages of Chagall’s life together, especially since, as Rosenstock shares in an Author’s Note, Chagall “was fascinated by views glimpsed through windows” from an early age and created art featuring windows. In a twist at the end, though, Rosenstock notes, “Through Marc’s windows, we see…”, and then proceeds to describe components of Chagall’s stained glass windows. I love how this draws the reader into the story and invites us to discover what we can see.
This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!