Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

Katie, Van Gogh, Starry Nights, and Sunflowers

More of James Mayhew's Katie.

Myra here.

I featured James Mayhew’s Katie for my Monday reading post. Consider this my Part Two of the Katie series as we celebrate beauty and art until the end of the year.


Katie And The Starry Night: A Magical Journey Through Five Van Gogh Masterpieces

Written and Illustrated by James Mayhew
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (2013)
ISBN: 1408304651 (ISBN13: 9781408304655). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story follows the same formula as the first two Katie books featured a few days back, with Grandma bringing Katie to the art gallery for a treat. She falls promptly asleep when she sees a bench or a couch where she can rest, leaving Katie the much-needed time to climb inside the paintings, like literally.

This time around, Katie brings us inside five of Van Gogh’s masterpieces, beginning with the gorgeous Starry Night. However, try as she might, Katie just can’t reach those magical, bright stars.

Not one to give up easily, she was resourceful enough to find something from one of Van Gogh’s paintings that would allow her to reach the skies:

I like how clever James Mayhew is in developing an entire rollickin’ adventure with Van Gogh’s masterpieces and a young girl for inspiration. The narrative is filled with visual puns and witticisms. My absolute favourite image is the one below:

Imagine catching Van Gogh’s Starry Night with the help of the ladies from The Olive Grove. Absolutely brilliant.


Katie And The Sunflowers

Written and Illustrated by James Mayhew
Published by Orchard (2007, first published in 2001)
ISBN: 1841216348 (ISBN13: 9781841216348). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story begins differently with Katie and Grandma planting some seeds in the garden, with the rains prompting them to go indoors – leading them to the art gallery, of course.

When Katie saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, she immediately longed to grow some seeds in their garden. After all, the sunflowers in the painting “were full of seeds.” However, Katie was overly enthusiastic, which led to her spilling the sunflowers all over the gallery floor, prompting her to get inside Gauguin’s Breton Girls.

Among all the four Katie books that I read, I have to admit this one is my favourite, what with Katie leaping into Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night and wreaking havoc there – not to mention tipping Cézanne’s Apples and Oranges all over the gallery floor, while being chased by an angry Parisian waiter.

My absolute favourite, however, is Gauguin’s Tahitian Pastorals as seen below:

What an awesome way to get young people interested in and knowledgeable about art and artists. It is a reminder that paintings exist for one to immerse one’s self in its beauty, and to make the visual masterpiece come alive by developing one’s own imagined narrative about it.


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