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M is for Masterpiece: An Art Alphabet Review by Lisa Kjeldgaard

By David Domeniconi
Illustrated by Will Bullas
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Every once in a while I find an engaging book that captures the interest of all seven of my children. I wasn't expecting to find that in an alphabet book, but I was pleasantly surprised as I pored over this gorgeously illustrated title. Each page is filled with pictures, simple verse, and sidebars filled with interesting historical information--elements that assured there was "something for everyone" with the turn of each page.

M is for Masterpiece follows the pattern of many other well-done Sleeping Bear Press alphabet books. Each oversized two-page spread covers one letter of our alphabet and has a watercolor illustration and a pleasant rhyme that reveals something about an element of art. For example, we learn that,

"J is for the Japanese print
From far across the sea.
Not the work of one artist alone,
It takes the skills of three."

The artwork for this page shows a sketch, a carved woodblock, and a print of a Japanese lady all atop a sea. Perfect information for the younger children in my home, and yet the book doesn't stop there. The sidebars have paragraphs describing the method of woodblock printing, the history of the art, a discussion of a famous Japanese woodcut artist, and a description of Western artists who have been influenced by Japanese prints. The sidebars are full of interesting facts for my older children as well as me!

The pages cover simple concepts, such as D is for Drawing and W is for Watercolors, as well as more complex subjects such as R is for Rembrandt.

M is for Masterpiece is by no means an exhaustive art manual nor the end all book to teach letters to your preschoolers. Yet it is an ideal book to read aloud or leave out for children to explore on their own. The colorful paintings and intriguing facts are sure to delight children of all ages.

Product review by Lisa Kjeldgaard, MS, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2007