Picture Book Delight :: Dan’s Angel :: Picture Study

A few weeks ago, the kids and I went home to my Mom’s house for a short fall break visit.  It was delightful as always: playing in the leaves, visiting with Mom and Dad, watching movies, and just being in that neat old farmhouse where there is so much scope for the imagination.  
As we were visiting, Mom walked up with a copy of this book and gave it to me.  (And here is the mark of the heart of a home educator – never mind the fact that Mom’s youngest, my sister, graduated home school/high school some 14 years ago – Mom is always on the lookout for a fantastic book!)  She had heard that this was a neat picture book for studying art, and picked up a used copy for us.  🙂  I know.  We’re lucky!
Dan’s Angel by Alexander Sturgis sets up in a way sure to hook almost every single young child, boys especially – Dan likes being a detective.  Right there, you’ve got ’em!  Dan takes his detective skills into an art museum and the first piece of art he sees is Fra Angelico’s, The Annunciation (the particular piece shown is the Cortona Altarpiece in Musea Diocesano, Fra Angelico painted many versions of the Annunciation), and upon looking for a moment at the painting, Dan is astonished when the archangel Gabriel begins to visit with him, giving a few simple clues to understand the painting.  Dan and the archangel Gabriel continue through the museum and together they enjoy a total of 12 paintings, exercising their detective skills along the way as they discover interesting things about each painting.  Dan learns to read the story of the paintings through the symbols the artist chose to use.  
The text is engaging and all my kids really enjoyed this book immensely!  Dan’s observations seem boyish and accessible, not too forced like a picture book…trying to be educational…still trying to be a picture book.  His observations invite the reader to look closely to see if they can find what Dan sees: the helmet, the peacock, the hidden wheel under St. Catherine’s dress.  The artwork is reproduced in photographic quality as a focal point on the page with the outer perimeter of the pages illustrated by Lauren Child.  These perimeter scenes are sometimes quite amusing such as when the archangel Gabriel hops on Dan’s skateboard.  Lauren Child’s whimsical, crazy style is sometimes quite a juxtaposition to the old master’s artwork portrayed.  The art portrayed spans from old masters from the 14th and 15th century up through 1950 modern art.
{Note to parents: There are no completely nude images in the art portrayed, but there are a couple of art figures with very little clothing on, or only a drape.  I thought the author did a good job moving the eye and thoughts away from that and directing it in other areas so that you’re searching for a helmet or a warrior’s tools.  But do be aware.}

I thought I’d link the art contained and discussed in Dan’s Angel in case you’d like to extend the picture book time and study each piece separately.  Simply print from the links:

I highly recommend this picture book for its appeal, narrative, and explanations of art symbolism in simple and understandable ways to little people.  Every child from 3 to 14 enjoyed it here.

{If you have an older child and would enjoy learning more about symbolism in art, I HIGHLY recommend George Ferguson’s Signs and Symbols in Christian Art!!)

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  1. Thank you!! I was able to find a used copy on Amazon with shipping it was only $6.
    I love art and am always looking for ways to share it with my children in an engaging way.
    Your blog is so inspiring and beautiful!!

  2. i have her autumn book also and tried to order some for gifts…almost nil to be found at affordable prices…..so much in demand I guess ….one of her best…actually all of her books are the best including her blog too.

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