________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 13 . . . . March 3, 2000

cover Bijou, Bonbon and Beau: The Kittens Who Danced for Degas.

Joan Sweeney. Illustrated by Leslie Wu.
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 1998.
17 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-8118-1975-2.

Subject Headings:
Degas, Edgar, 1834-1917-Fiction.
Ballet dancing-Fiction.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Ann Stinner.

**** /4


On a blustery day long ago, a weary cat crossed a bridge over the river Seine in Paris. All afternoon, she had been searching for a warm place.

When she thought she could go no further, she came to a theater where ballet was performed. The theater was known throughout Paris. A talented artist often came there to sketch.

image And thus the scene is set for the story of Bijou, Bonbon and Beau, The Kittens Who Danced for Degas. Joan Sweeney writes in an engaging style, following events in the lives of the three kittens born in the theatre: their adoption by the wardrobe mistress and the ballerinas, the threats made by the nasty stage manager, the relationship of the kittens with the nameless artist who quietly sketches from the audience or the wings, and their own performances on opening night. The text of the story features vivid language, short sentences and a large type face, making the book accessible to beginning readers.

Children will also be captivated by the beautiful illustrations of mischievous kittens as they tumble across the pages of the book. The pictures are created by Leslie Wu in a technique reminiscent of Degas' pastel work: they depict high contrast, intensely-coloured scenes and use a sketchy, impressionistic style. The softly-textured kittens are irresistible. To maintain reader interest, the artist has employed a variety of illustration sizes and formats (ranging from single page illustrations to double page spreads) and a mixture of points of view (panoramic shots, close-ups, bird's eye views and "kittens' eye" views). The kitten motif is also emphasized by paw prints scattered across the end sheets.

A surprise feature of the book is a final fold out which gives children a chance to see an actual work by Degas - The Rehearsal on the Stage - and to read a short synopsis of his life. Children are also encouraged to study the artwork closely and to look for signs of kittens in the shadows. Could this be a true story?

Potential readers of this book might be children on their own, teachers, or parents - or, best of all, children and adults sharing the story together. In addition to being an entertaining story, Bijou, Bonbon and Beau can provide an excellent introduction to art appreciation for young children. They are sure to enjoy both the antics of the kittens and the details of backstage scenes in the theatre.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Stinner is an art education instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364