Raphael, Botticelli and Giotto by Mike Venezia (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series): we discovered these little books thanks to some American friends who were touring central Italy with their three children this summer, and had taken these books along: both parents and children had loved them, and so did Rebecca. In fact, at the end of their trip Rebecca then became the very grateful recipient of the books.
These booklets have large type, many illustrations, and aim to introduce the works of the greatest artists to children (6 and up) through fun. The pages, in fact, are interspersed with cartoons, which, frankly, would have put off this particular mamma, except that they did seem to bring a welcome change of pace to my young "art student".
In 30-odd pages, the author manages to describe in clear and simple terms what is known about the artists' lives, the characteristics of their style, and places them in the artistic and historical context of their time. Rebecca is really enjoying these books (Raphael is her very favorite because of all the Madonna and Child paintings - my girl is such a little mommy!), and can recognize many of the illustrations: Botticelli's Birth of Venus, a Byzantine mosaic with a crucifixion scene in Giotto's book where the change of the role of art in society is mentioned, and so on - all great artworks that she hasn't actually seen, but that remind her of similar great works we've seen recently, and which these books give us a chance to discuss with her, making our trips and visits to churches and museums deeper experiences for her.
It's a terrific series, and a good introduction to art and history: yesterday, Rebecca asked, "So, if we aren't in the Middle Ages, nor in the Renaissance, where are we now?"