While exploring the lovely ‘Hill of Content’ Bookshop in Melbourne on Friday, I saw a copy of Linea in Monet’s Garden’ on display. I was given a copy of this lovely book, by my mum I think, when I was younger. It was adorned with a gold star stating it was the 25 year anniversary edition.
It was no doubt on display in the bookshop because the National Gallery of Victoria was exhibiting a whole lot of Monet’s works. On Saturday I went to see the exhibition. It was wonderful. I was so glad I visited it. I wish I hadn’t visited on a Saturday – the exhibition was crowded and you had to dodge your head to read the little descriptions of each work underneath the paintings – but somehow the magic of Monet’s work meant I was able to block out all the chatter around me.
Once I exited the exhibition, I was faced, of course, with the gift shop. Monet souvenirs were practically plastered everywhere, from books to scarves to postcards to boxes of pencils. I went to have a look at the children’s books, and there was an array of different books for kids on Monet and impressionism. It made me wonder – I hadn’t ever seen any of the other books being sold in the gift shop, but I had seen Linnea in Monet’s Garden in quite a few places. Even my old bookshop in Adelaide usually stocked a copy. What is it about that particular book that stood out, and made it timeless (as well as one of the 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up)?
I think part of it is because of the way Linnea explores Monet’s work, life and home. We get to discover Monet the way a child does. And she takes her camera through Paris as a way to explore the places she visits. It reminded me of the way Mum would take us to museums and art galleries when we were living in Paris when I was a child, and she would always have a pad of paper and some pencils for me, and I would draw my favourite paintings. She would also buy my sister and I a postcard at the beginning of our visit to a museum, and we made a game out of trying to find the painting or sculpture depicted in the postcard. Rather than expect us to want to just wander the art galleries with her, she let us learn about art through our own mediums – not unlike how Linnea learns about Monet through the lens of her camera. Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson make you almost forget that you are ‘learning’ about Monet – rather, you are just hearing a whole lot of things that Linnea finds interesting. It is more like having a chat with her, than a lesson. That’s how I liked to learn as a child – using my curiosity rather than being fed information. And as Linnea and Monet’s Garden is entering its 28th year of publication, it seems like other children like learning that way too.