Thursday, March 5, 2009

Imagine a Night Full of Optical Illusions

Imagine a Night is one of those visually rich books that are best read with your child sitting in your lap so you can pour over the details of every picture together. Inspired by the magic realist paintings of Rob Gonsalves, author Sarah L. Thomson has paired her evocative verse with several examples of Gonsalves's gorgeous artwork. His paintings remind me of M.C. Escher's work in that each piece includes an optical illusion that forces the viewer to consider a mundane part of the world from a new perspective. For example, the cover art shows Gonsalves's painting, "Ladies of the Lake," in which the reflections of the moon, trees and clouds in a body of water are compared to women in long white gowns lead out of the water by lantern light. Within the book, this piece is paired with the following verse: "imagine a night.../...when moonlight spills/across the water/to make a path/for the lightest of feet." In other images, Thomson leads the reader in discovering, among other images, quilts that look like fields and forests as seen from an airplane, a field of sunflowers that look like blonde-haired women in green cloaks and gloves listening to a farmer play his fiddle, drifts of snow that look like crisp white bedsheets and moonlit clouds seen through archways that resemble solemn monks in their robes. This is a wonderful book to share at bedtime and can be used to spark little imaginations at any time of day. My kids love looking at these pictures, and I help point out the meanings of the illusions as we read this book together, though sometimes no help is required. "Look! The flowers look like people!" the Light exclaimed during one reading.

This book has introduced me to a new artist and made me a fan. Though Gonsalves is often called a Surrealist, he prefers the term "Magic Realism" because his images are "deliberately planned and result from conscious thought" and his images provide a magical quality to realistic scenes (see Wikipedia article on Gonsalves). You can check out more of Gonsalves's paintings on the Saper Galleries web site. Thomson provides a a helpful key to the paintings included in this book at the end so you know the actual names of the paintings. This book could be a wonderful addition to an art class or art lesson for homeschoolers. Children could be challenged to create their own illusions from scenes in their lives with water colors or crayons.

I was delighted to learn from Sarah L. Thomson's web site and the aforementioned Saper Galleries site that this book has two companion books, called Imagine a Day (Byron Preiss Book) and Imagine a Place. I'll definitely be looking for those to share with my kids.

No comments: