cover image Charlotte in Giverny

Charlotte in Giverny

Joan MacPhail Knight, Joan MacPhail Knight. Chronicle Books, $16.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2383-8

Part faux diary, part scrapbook, this charming volume teeters between picture book and novel. Through the 1892 ""journal"" of young Charlotte Glidden, daughter of a fictitious Boston painter, Knight (Bon App tit, Bertie) uncovers the inner workings of an artist's colony that sprang up near Claude Monet's home in France. Charlotte's enthusiastic, detailed reports emulate the more leisurely pace of 19th-century daily life in Giverny, and her perceptions of French culture and customs, art and artists give readers the distinct feeling of looking over her shoulder. Knight adroitly pins the substance of her tale to 16 Impressionist paintings, some of which are attributed to characters in the book. For instance, Charlotte describes her friend Edith Perry sitting for a portrait her mother is painting, and the painter turns out to be Lilla Cabot Perry. Similarly, Theodore Robinson's The Wedding March appears in Charlotte's diary entry about the marriage of Suzanne Monet to American artist Theodore Butler. Knight also works in paintings by other Impressionists who don't appear in the narrative but who did spend time at Giverny, such as an unusually informal painting by John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Sweet (Leaving Vietnam) adds to the visual mix with a whimsical patchwork of sprightly watercolors and small-scale collages made from scraps of fabric, stamps, period photographs, a mini-picture glossary of French words and the like. Closing with a brief description of each painting and biography of each artist, this is a most appealing art history lesson. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)