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‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ Book Review

'Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art' Book Review

I have always loved art and fondly remember taking day trips to the art museum in Chicago with my family as a child. I have continued the family tradition by taking my own children to many art museums. I also incorporate art lessons in our homeschool curriculum, introducing artists and art styles. When recently offered the chance to review Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott from Nancy Paulson Books in exchange for my honest opinion, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to add a new title to my home library and homeschool.

Author/Illustrator

Currently residing in the Hudson Valley of New York with his two cats Holly and Jasper and in his loft in New York City, author and illustrator Hudson Talbott grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of four children and the only sibling with an interest in the arts. After living abroad for several years, he began his career in New York as a free-lance designer/illustrator commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum, The Metropolitan Opera, Bloomingdale’s, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. His books have been made into films, musicals, and have won several awards. He has written and illustrated more than twenty books for children including Newbery Honor winner Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, ALA Notable Book and VOYA Honor Book Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz, and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, which was adapted into an animated film by Steven Spielberg.

Synopsis

Recommended for readers between the ages of 6 and 8 in first through third grades, Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art looks at the fascinating life of artist Thomas Cole from his humble beginnings to his development of a new painting style that became the first formal art movement in America: the Hudson River school of painting. Born in England during the Industrial Revolution, artist was always looking for something new to draw and was fascinated by tales of the American countryside. He moved to America in 1818, and his life changed when he was given a ticket for a boat trip up the Hudson River to see the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. The haunting beauty of the landscape inspired him and the first art movement born in America. Author Hudson Talbott takes young readers on a unique journey as he depicts immigrant artist Thomas Cole falling in love with and fighting to preserve his new country. The 32-page full-color hardback book currently costs $17.99 on Amazon.

Cover of 'Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art' Inside Pages of 'Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art' 1

Inside Pages of 'Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art' 2 Inside Pages of 'Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art' 3

Evaluation

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art begins the story of artist Thomas Cole with his childhood in England. The book then describes his journey around the young United States and his subsequent influence on the first truly American art movement, the Hudson River school of painting. My oldest daughter is 6.5 years old and half way through second grade. She can easily read the text of the book on her own. My two younger children also enjoy listening to me read the story out loud. I really enjoy that Talbott uses creative nonfiction to teach about the history of an artist and art genre.

While I enjoy the story in Picturing America, I especially love the gorgeous illustrations. Talbott uses a style similar to that of Cole, so I feel almost like I have stepped into a Thomas Cole painting as I read about his life. My preschooler son loves looking at the pictures on each page as I read the story aloud. My second grader has been inspired by the style and has attempted some landscape drawings of her own after reading the book. Even my infant daughter stares at the soft and colorful illustrations. I plan to incorporate the book into an upcoming co-op lesson with our homeschool group, and I definitely consider the book a great addition to any homeschool or school library.

Final Verdict

If you are searching for a book that teaches about American art history, I definitely recommend checking out Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Recommended for readers in first through third grade, the book tells the story of the fascinating life of artist Thomas Cole from his humble beginnings in the English countryside to his development of a new painting style that became the first formal art movement in America, the Hudson River school of painting. The creative nonfiction teaches about art and history through an interesting story and gorgeous illustrations. I highly recommend adding the book to any homeschool library.

Purchase Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art on Amazon via my affiliate link.

Image Credits

‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ Book Review © 2018 Heather Johnson
Cover of ‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ © 2018 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ 1 © 2018 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ 2 © 2018 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art’ 3 © 2018 Heather Johnson

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