Linnea in Monet’s Garden
Christina Bjork (text)
Lena Anderson (drawings)
This was one of my favorite books as a young child. Between my parents and my third grade teacher, all of whom instilled a great love and appreciation for the fine arts within me at a young age, a children’s book whose main character gets to visit the Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny, France was perfect.
Although the book resembles other picture books, it is somewhat text heavy and would be most appropriate for children between the ages of six and 10 (the younger readers perhaps being read to by an adult). The story is told in the present in Linnea’s voice, starting at the beginning when she and her neighbor, the kind Mr. Bloom, concoct a plan to visit the famed gardens and lily ponds in person.
“And just think-everything was finally arranged so that I could go to Paris with Mr. Bloom! (But it took all of my savings, and a little more.) We went in August because Mr. Bloom said the water lilies would be best then.”
Linnea in Monet’s Garden does a great job of providing a delightful fictional story (Linnea’s adventures in France) against an educational backdrop. Young readers discover what Impressionism is and how initially it contrasted its immense popularity it enjoys today; Monet’s paintings weren’t always regarded so highly by the art world. They’ll also learn about Monet’s personal life and the many sad events that struck him. Charming illustrations are included, along with images of Monet’s paintings and actual photographs of Monet and his family.
The book also serves as a de facto tourist guide for searching out Monet in France. While in Paris, Linnea and Mr. Bloom visit the Musee Marmottan, home to the largest collection of Monet’s works in the world, and the Musee de l’Orangerie, which Monet chose and arranged to showcase his masterpieces in. A cycle of his water-lily paintings, known as the Nympheas, was arranged on the ground floor in 1927. The eight paintings are displayed in two oval rooms all along the walls.
Although I didn’t quite make it to Giverny on my last trip to Paris, I did visit the Musee de l’Orangerie where I was reacquainted with Linnea in no other place than the gift shop. I hadn’t seen or thought of the book in years, but seeing the book (and the doll of her that I also used to have) reminded me just how delightful a read Linnea in Monet’s Garden is, regardless of one’s age.