Friday, October 21, 2016

PPBF: What Degas Saw

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

What Degas Saw,
by Samantha Friedman and Cristina Pieropan
What Degas Saw
Written Samantha Friedman
Illustrated by Cristina Pieropan

Museum of Modern Art, 2016
Ages 5-10, 40 pp

Art History, Biography, Nonfiction

       The world was changing. Paris was alive.
       From his studio on rue Victor Masse, the artist Edgar Degas could see pedestrians strolling on wide, new boulevards. . . smoke rising from new factories. . . grand new buildings of iron and glass.

This book introduces readers to the person of Edgar Degas at a point in his life where he was searching for a new form of expression. The narrative follows him as he experiences the busyness of Paris and longs to capture it. It alternates illustrations of the scenes with copies of Degas's actual work, like puzzle pieces, fitting into people's everyday lives.

What I Love:
I love the viewpoint the author chose. She distilled Degas's philosophy down so succinctly in the line, "He wanted to find a way to capture the beauty of the passing moment." The text does not talk down to its audience, but invites them into the artist's thought process. I love how the illustrator depicts the scene going on around the famous paintings. The book also highlights some of the artist's work which is rarely seen: not just his ballerinas, but charcoals of passersby, sketches of average Parisians. Friedman's work as a curator at the MOMA gives her a unique perspective and adds authority to both the text and the backmatter.

1. Find out more about modern art on the Museum of Modern Art's webpage and to learn more about their publishing arm, check out the recent article from Publisher's Weekly.

2. Author Sarah Friedman has collaborated with MOMA on another biography, Matisse's Garden. Buy it at the online store, or explore inside.

3. Artist Cristina Pieropan has illustrated another
art biography, this one about architect Andrea Palladio.

4. Degas used charcoal and pastel to blur the figures in his drawings, conveying the feeling of life and motion. Have students experiment with chalky media. Show them photos of movement caught on film and Degas's pastels. Have them draw their own surroundings with the side of the crayon to imply movement.

5. Kids Play Box has a tutorial for painting roosters with a fork. It's not impressionism, but it produces an amazing impressionistic effect.

6. Mr. Otter Studio produced a creative art project video where kids can recreate one of Degas's ballerina pieces. See video above.

7. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Barbara
Reviewed by Joanna

Reviewed by Lynn Marie
Reviewed by Kirsten

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Leslie

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, October 21, 2016 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


  1. This looks like a gem! I love Degas work and have visited many exhibits over the years. Fun to see the work that is rarely seen. I'd like this book!

    1. I was very impressed by this book. I loved the authoritative perspective Enjoy!

  2. Artist biographies are some of my favorites and Paris artists of this time, j'adore! This looks a great addition.

    1. Mine too. But I'm more of a Morisot kinda girl. Hope you like it!

  3. I'm always thrilled to find a great picture book I haven't read yet. And...a picture book biography about an artist whose work I enjoy is better still! Thank you for including the video on how to create an oil pastel of a Degas. My daughter recently discovered the fun of creating with oil pastels, I think this would be a wonderful weekend art project!

    1. My daughter liked it too. Pastels are her favorite medium. Thanks!

  4. I love picture books about artists and this one looks wonderful, especially its focus on Degas's thought process. And I love Paris and seeing historical depictions of the city is a delight.

    1. Have you ever been there? I'd love to visit the museums most of all. Thanks.

  5. Replies
    1. So well done and creatively put together. This calls for a trip to NYC!


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