I recently discovered a wildly lovely blog, The Wild Magnolia, whose musings on paintings, poetry, literature, goddesses, and rabbits, among other things, have captured my own imagination. The Wild Magnolia did a wonderful post here about Monet. Her post is titled "I'm Moving to Giverny, France, to Live in Monet's Home." I thought I might latch onto her coattails and offer you today this wonderful children's book: Linnea in Monet's Garden.
Linnea in Monet's Garden was written by Christina Bjork, illustrated by Lena Anderson, and translated by Joan Sandin. And it is available in a simply wonderful adaptation as a children's video, in both VHS and DVD formats. Plus, Linnea so touched the hearts of children that she is available as a doll as well.
The book is a beautiful blend of fiction and non-fiction, of paintings, drawings, labels, and photographs.
I love how the cover lets you know that the content inside is going to be this mixture of fiction and non-fiction by placing both Linnea and Monet on that bridge, the railing so seamlessly reaching across the photo of Monet into the imaginary world of Linnea.
The cover also hints at another wonderful aspect of this book: it is laid out in a kind of scrapbook format. For example, one page has photos of flowers mixed in with illustrations of Linnea taking photos of flowers. Very cleverly done!
And inside there is a discussion of impressionism, and also a conversation about how a closeup look at Monet's painted lilies shows that the "lilies were nothing but blobs and blotches of paint." Linnea wants to know how Monet could know that those blobs of paint would look like water lilies from a distance.
The story involves a loving friendship between a little girl and her elderly neighbor. Linnea tells the story, and she begins this way:
"Just think – I've been in a famous artist's garden! And I've been in Paris! My friend Mr. Bloom was with me. In fact, the whole thing was actually his idea. But maybe I should begin at the beginning."
"I love flowers (I'm even named after a flower), and I'm interested in everything that grows. That's just the way I am."
And that's how Mr. Bloom is, too. He's my upstairs neighbor."
I love that: Mr. Bloom! And I love a little girl saying: "That's just the way I am."
Linnea and Mr. Bloom go to France to see Monet's house and garden. You will get to find a hotel in Paris and go on a train to Giverny, buy "a long thin loaf of bread called a baguette," find rows of flower beds, wander around inside Monet's house, find a boat in the lily pond, have a picnic, and learn about Monet's family through photos of them with little labels written underneath.
When Linnea is home again, she sits on her bed with all her mementos of her trip to Monet's garden: postcards, the tickets, a pigeon feather, a nightcap, a hundred meters of pink satin ribbon, a red book of city maps, a doll pencil case, a kaleidoscope.
I think this a treasure of a book. I could not tell if it is currently in print, but there are ten copies in the Austin library, so I feel sure it would be easy to find. The Austin library catalog number is J 759.4 BJ. I don't know if these numbers are universal. Perhaps some kind reader will enlighten me!
This is certainly the perfect season to read this little book. It will make you want to go out into the world and look at all the flowers in bloom. It will make you think about gardening. Or painting. Or moving to Giverny . . .