Christina Björk, Linnea in Monet’s Garden. Drawings by Lena Anderson
Published 1987 by R&S Books. Originally published in Swedish in 1985 by Rabén & Sjögren, 52p. Translated by Joan Sandin
Although Linnea was born in 1985, I am sure the new generations of children will still find inspiration in her behavior and preoccupations.
I love flowers (I’m even named after a flower), and I’m interested in everything that grows. That’s just the way I am.
And she is extremely lucky to have a retired neighbor, Mr. Bloom, whom she can spend time with and who tells her interesting stories. One of them is about the French painter Claude Monet who also loved flowers. He lived in Giverny in a pink house with his large family and had a beautiful garden that he used in his paintings.
The friendship between Linnea and Mr Bloom is fascinating and the way they discuss art simply captivating; I have always liked the adult characters that naturally combine stories with facts to present new notions to children. Mr Bloom takes Linnea to Paris so she could see Monet’s house.
The journey to Paris is the appropriate way to introduce Impressionism, Monet’s painting techniques and Paris to Linnea. They stay at Hotel Esmeralda which takes its name from the character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and spend the time visiting the Marmottan Museum and Monet’s house. There is a beautiful moment at the museum when Linnea, curiously looking at Monet’s painting, notices
that the lilies were nothing but blobs and blotches of paint. But when I stepped away again, they turned into real water lilies floating in a pond – magic!
And Mr Bloom explains, showing her Monet’s Impression – Sunrise:
Monet painted his impression of sunlight reflected in the water. After that, the art critics (the ones who wrote about art in the newspapers) started calling Monet an Impressionist. And they didn’t mean it as a compliment… But Monet didn’t care what they said. He didn’t want to mix black into his colors. He wanted to paint his impressions with bright dabs of color that would shine and sparkle on the canvas and make it come alive…. But it was water that Monet thought was the most fun to paint. What color is water, actually? One moment it looks blue, the next moment it’s white. Those were little moments that Monet tried to capture in paint.
Monet loved to live in the countryside. When his wife died of tuberculosis and he was still facing financial difficulties, Monet moved with his friend Alice, that would later become his wife, and their eight children, in the pink house in Giverny. The painter was preoccupied with illustrating the same scene while light and seasons changed. His garden with the famous water lilies, the boat and the Japanese bridge became frequent elements in his paintings.
The book is brightly constructed, the characters infuse affection and good will and the mix of watercolour illustrations with reproductions of Monet’s paintings and photographs with the painter’s family is extremely appropriate for the purpose of the story.
The last pages include Monet’s story and a list with lovely things one can do in Paris.