Dreamer from the Village: The Story of Marc Chagall
Michelle Markel. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6373-8
This picture-book biography of painter Marc Chagall illustrates how a childhood spent in close observation of family, religious ritual and his small Russian village became fodder for his glorious artwork. One spread shows young Marc attentively walking among village shopkeepers, women and children, workmen and animals; another depicts the boy, slightly older, gazing admiringly from his attic window (""The town was like a richness that filled him-the goats and chickens, the factories, the cemetery, and everything that lay beyond""). The narrative also describes the development of his artistic sensibilities: ""Marc knew he was different from other boys. He saw things they didn't see. On the Sabbath, enchanted by the singing of prayers, Marc saw houses floating."" Those familiar with his work will detect the seeds here for his transcendent paintings; Lisker (A Hanukkah Treasury) pays Chagall homage through seemingly weightless landscapes with blue horses and purple cows. Even though Marc's family disliked his drawings, his mother sent him to art school (in one humorous image, the students sketch a plaster statue while Marc draws a cow). Finally in Paris, he finds a receptive audience. The pacing can be clunky, and the biographical details sketchy, but this tale of a boy with a unique perspective eventually getting his reward, coupled with Lisker's Chagall-inspired images and exuberant color schemes will likely inspire any child who feels underappreciated for his or her gifts. Ages 5-up.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2005