#ReadIntl2020 Award-Winning Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Otherworldly Realms - Fantasia Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] The Surreal Fantastical Art of Magritte and Klimt in Children’s Picturebooks

Picturebooks inspired by the art of Magritte and Gustav Klimt.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

These two artist-inspired picturebooks celebrate the surreal and the otherworldly through exquisite artworks and unique storytelling. I am happy to have discovered them by accident while visiting the Zayed Central Library (see my post here).

Magritte’s Apple [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Klaas Verplancke
Published by Thames & Hudson (2016)
ISBN: 0500651035 (ISBN13: 9780500651032). Borrowed from Zayed Central Library. Book photos taken by me. 

The book begins by introducing the reader to a man named René (ostensibly referring to Magritte) who is unable to sleep because of all the ideas in his head that he wants to paint. In the morning, he dragged an empty canvas, but seemed unable to begin with the swarm of possibilities in his mind.

Perhaps it is meant to encourage young people to persist – and that even among great painters, #TheStruggleIsReal. What I especially loved about this picturebook is how Verplancke was able to seamlessly interweave Magritte’s famous paintings into the visual narrative.

I especially enjoyed the meta quality of this book. I liked how Verplancke treated his young readers as intelligent enough to be able to appreciate the visual codes and illusions and puns in his tribute to Magritte:

At the end of the book, one is able to see actual photographs of some of Magritte’s famous paintings and the man himself. This is a great visual primer to the strange, surreal, otherworldly quality of “Magritte’s Apple.”

The Magical Tree: A Children’s Book Inspired by Gustav Klimt [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Myriam Ouyessad Illustrated by Anja Klauss
Published by Prestel Publishing (2016)
ISBN: 3791372149 (ISBN13: 9783791372143) Borrowed from Zayed Central Library. Book photos taken by me.

In contrast to the first book, this one has a clear structure, an evident arc to the narrative. I read this aloud to myself and enjoyed the lyrical storytelling that gradually but inevitably builds up into something magical and otherworldly:

While the protagonist here is a young boy named Djalil, it was the mysterious old woman named Minoa “who spoke to trees” who captured my attention. She has this druid-like, ageless, endless quality to her. She intended to pass on her legacy to this bright-eyed young person worthy enough to serve as the caretaker of a rare single seed that can not be found anywhere on earth: the one she held protectively in the black and white box in the image above.

Djalil, thankfully, proved to be worthy indeed – although unsure of the magnitude of his responsibility, he knew he was ready for it regardless. What the powers are of this magical tree, I shall leave for you to discover.

But it did bring Djalil face to face with beauty, a kingdom in peril, and love everlasting – as befits a fairytale-like, magical story. While I loved the book, the art especially, I felt the ending was abrupt. I kept flipping the pages wondering if it was all there is. There is a detailed afterword that talks about Gustav Klimt and his art and how it inspired the story in the book. Definitely worth finding.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: 7, 8, 9 of 30 (country): France | Germany (Myriam Ouyessad is from France | Anja Klauss is from Germany)

Belgium (Klaas Verplancke is from Belgium)

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Monday Reading] The Surreal Fantastical Art of Magritte and Klimt in Children’s Picturebooks

  1. Wow, Myra! Both of these books look fantastic and I’m so sad to see that neither book is available in my local libraries. Thank you for sharing the book and the amazing artwork!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am fascinated with pictures books from outside the US. I thank you for sharing these.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindabaie

    I love the look of each of these, Myra, but my library has neither. I’ll see if I can find them elsewhere! You’ve intrigued me by what you’ve shared!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alas, like Linda, my public library has neither of these titles. Luckily the school library I am working in on Thursday has The Magical Tree. Now all I have to do is try and remember to read it while I am there!

    Liked by 1 person

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