I have a confession to make. I Love Art History. It was my favourite subject at school (well Art History and History) but for some reason we have not included a lot of Art History in our home education. We do lots of Art and we have learnt about individual artists but we have never looked at the progression of Art through the ages, how it changed and developed and what caused the changes. Last year when my daughter was working on her Art Award I actually spend some time searching for a good Art History book but I never found something that I thought was comprehensive but not overwhelming (very hard balance because there is just so much to cover). And then I heard about this gem Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art (and it really is a gem of a book).
It was exactly what I wanted. It is a comprehensive guide to art history throughout the world (not just European art although there is a LOT of European art in it) and it has been written in a really easy to understand manner. The more I have read it the more I have been impressed with how much they have included yet by talking about the events in a story like manner you don’t always realize how much you are actually learning.
The Book is 336 pages long – so it is quite a thick book but it is broken down into 68 short stories. Each story is about a famous piece of art (and they include all types of art work – cave paintings, statues, stained glass windows, architecture, frescoes and of course traditional paintings).
Each story is written as if the artist is alive, busy creating the work, so you often get the artist commenting on something. I think this is what makes it so appealing to kids and makes it just such an easy to read art history book. And although each story talks about the artist and the famous work they are busy creating the author has also managed to weave a lot of important information into the stories, like how the different art techniques worked, how events of the time impacted the artist (the development of photographs) and of course the personal touches (we loved reading about how Raphael used some of the famous artists in his work).
Covering over 40 000 years of art is a huge task and making that massive period of art interesting for kids is an even greater task. But this book achieves that. It is a foundation of art (please be realistic – not everything is going to be covered in 336 pages), but it covers the important movements and developments and it will create curiosity so the kids can go and explore further.
My kids and I highly recommend this book and think it is a steal at the price (under £20). We think it is just the right combination of facts and interesting snippets written in such a way that it is easy to work through one at a time (although my kids often want to cover more than 1 story at a time).
Oh and don’t get put off by the age range given to this book. I have seen it suggested that it is for ages 7-11 but I really think you can use this for older kids and in all honesty I have personally enjoyed reading this book just for my own knowledge.
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