Nonfiction Monday – Gallery Ghost

Remember those “spot the difference” puzzles you solved as a kid? I loved the challenge of comparing two illustrations or photographs and finding all differences between them. Imagine my surprise and utter delight to find a book that uses this format to introduce children to the world of art.

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In Gallery Ghost: Find the Ghost Who Paints the Most! by Anna Nilsen, readers learn that the ghosts of 24 artists haunt a gallery. At night, the ghosts play a game where they sneak details from their own paintings onto other artists’ pictures. Sarah, the art student who helps to keep the gallery clean, challenges readers to help find the ghost who makes the most changes to the paintings of others. First she introduces each of the 24 artists, from Hendrick Avercamp to Marguerite Zorach. Next she outlines the steps to take to find the changes and “keep score” for each ghost. The book comes with a magnifying glass to help readers compare original paintings to the ones with changes, as well as a score sheet to keep track of which ghost has made the most changes.

Once directions have been given, readers get to the heart of the matter. The pages in the center of the book are cut (literally) horizontally. The paintings, which come from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., are arranged in two ways. The top half of the page shows the images in chronological order. These are the “doctored” paintings, or the ones with ghostly changes. The bottom half of the page presents the artists in alphabetical order, accompanied by their original painting and a short poem that highlights the painter’s philosophy or technique. Written by Besty Franco, the poems cover a range of topics, from subject matter, to color and composition.

I decided to test my skills by beginning with the doctored painting Tropical Forest with Monkeys by Henri Rousseau. It was rather easy to spot what was added to the painting, but quite another matter to determine which artists were the culprits. I must admit that my old eyes did need the magnifying glass, and that at times it was hard to compare images when they didn’t align directly top-to-bottom. However, I had great fun searching for answers and learned a lot in the short time it took me to solve this first puzzle. I imagine any reader interested in art will have internalized quite a bit about the artists and their works by the time they finish spotting and attributing the differences for all the paintings.

The book ends with a brief biography of each author and an answer key where the differences are highlighted on the piece of artwork and identified by artist who made them.

Gallery Ghost is an interesting book that introduces art to young readers in an unusual and engaging manner. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys puzzles, close observation and/or art.

Book: Gallery Ghost: Find the Ghost Who Paints the Most!
Author: Anna Nilsen, poems by Betsy Franco
Illustrator: Richard Sala
Publisher: Birdcage Press
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 4-8
ISBN: 978-159960-036-9
Source of Book: Copy received from Raab Associates, Inc.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.