“Here is a building filled with art. What will you find inside?” So begins A is for Art Museum [ISBN 978-0-87633-203-0] — the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s first children’s book, penned by a pair of Museum educators. Published this October in association with Temple University Press, this playful alphabet book will take preschoolers on a whirlwind A-to-Z tour through the Museum’s collection. Over the course of 67 colorful pages, children can practice their ABCs while enhancing their powers of observation. They can also discover some of the Museum’s outstanding works of art, ranging from beloved favorites such as Edgar Degas’s bronze sculpture of a 14-year-old ballet dancer (“D is for Dancer”) to Takashi Murakami’s bright Anime-inspired cartoon creature (“Y is for Yellow”). Each image is accompanied by questions designed to get children thinking and talking about what they see.
“We are delighted to introduce children to the wonders that art museums hold, as well as to encourage parents and children to sit together and talk about what art makes them think and feel,” said Marla K. Shoemaker, the Museum’s Senior Curator of Education who co-authored the book with Manager of Family and Children’s Programs Katy Friedland. “Our selections run the gamut of what a child might encounter on a visit to our museum, and offer parents and children an opportunity to build on their museum experience after they’ve gone home at the end of the day. We hope that as families pour over the images again and again, these magnificent works of art will become like old friends.”
“We’ve spent countless hours in the galleries working with and talking to young children, and we brought all of that experience into the book,” Friedland said. “We selected artworks with special appeal to young children, and designed each question to provoke conversation and stimulate curiosity. For example, ‘N is for Neck’ asks children to stretch their necks like the woman in a Modigliani painting while ‘E is for Eye’ asks them to scour a group of images to find a painting of two eyes.”
A helpful “Note to Grown-Ups” at the end of the book offers even more art-related games for parents and children to play, including “I Spy,” “Treasure Hunt,” “Seek and Find” and “Compare two pictures.” These games aren’t just about having fun, though — they also encourage children to look, think and respond to what they see.
Shoemaker and Friedland began work on A is for Art Museum about two years ago, bringing to the writing table nearly 40 years of museum education experience between them. With guidance from the Museum’s late director, Anne d’Harnoncourt, the authors selected works that mirror the collection’s wide range of media, time periods and cultures. A is for Art Museum is the first children’s book for both authors.
The Museum will celebrate the launch of A is for Art Museum at its Every Family Party (Saturday, November 15, 2008, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.) with ABC-inspired activities including an art station based on “S is for Sunflowers” — van Gogh’s famous masterpiece. An outgrowth of the popular Enchanted Forest Family Party, this celebration is expected to draw families from around the Delaware Valley for an evening of entertainment and discovery. Tickets to the party are $25 each, and children under age two are free. Proceeds support the Museum’s early childhood education programs and help provide copies of A is for Art Museum to local libraries, Head Start programs and community centers free of charge.
A is for Art Museum by Katy Friedland and Marla K. Shoemaker
67 pages, 37 full-color illustrations, 8 ¼ x 8 ¼”
Cloth ISBN 978-0-87633-203-0, $16.95
Published: October 15, 2008