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The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  636 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases. Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world.

Michelle Markel's vivid
Hardcover, 34 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Eerdmans Books
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm not ashamed to say it, though perhaps I should be. Still, it's true. Though I grew up in the middle class with a good education and a stint at a liberal arts college there are huge gaping gaps in my knowledge that have consistently been filled in over the years by children's books. I know that I am not alone in this. When I worked in NYPL's Central Children's Room we had any number of regular adult patrons that would come in seeking children's books on a variety of different topics so that ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Laura, Wanda et al
Recommended to Bettie by: Brain Pickings
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa Vegan
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: art appreciators; artists; people of all ages who persevere or need encouragement to persevere
I adored this picture book. I thoroughly enjoyed the interpretation of Rousseau’s art, and I loved most of the illustrations. I really liked the story. I was touched and heartbroken and inspired by Rousseau’s life and experiences.

This is a fabulous book for people of all ages who need encouragement to persevere in pursuing their dreams and goals, who create or want to create art or other work, who appreciate art and art history, and/or who enjoy Rousseau’s paintings, and who appreciate nature
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This wonderful new biography of a self-taught man who started his art career late in life and with little recognition also attests to determination and persistence amid criticism. As Henri Rousseau follows his dream to paint, he finds the path he has chosen to be a sometimes lonely one. The text describes his love for nature and his reliance on the 1889 World's Fair in Paris for inspiration, but despite his hard work, critics made fun of his work. The text is engaging, filled with sparkling ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I fell in love with Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy when I first saw it as a kid. I could picture myself out there in the desert under the stars, holding perfectly still, while the lion approaches. In fact, I have a small print of it hanging in my library room. My second favorite is, of course, The Dream. I love his bright, warm colors, and all the vegetation and birds and animals. I knew nothing about the painter, however, until I read this book. To think that he was self-taught!
What the book
Ms. B
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous story, gorgeous illustrations. Henri Rousseau ignored the critics and followed his passion.
This picture book presents Henri Rousseau as an artist who painted because he loved nature, and wanted to paint it as he saw it. He was already 40 when he began to paint, and was ridiculed by critics for his "child-like" style. But he persisted. I imagine that in real life, Rousseau, like most people, was discouraged by the criticism, but this story paints an uplifting, resilient, "do what you love because you love it" picture.

Amanda Hall was the perfect artist for the book. Her art is
Picture book biography of Rousseau illustrated in a style very reminiscent of Rosseau's work, with flat, bright colors. Much I did not know -- he did not start painting until around age 40 (never too late to follow your dreams!), was self-taught, and critics really did not like/appreciate his work. A younger group of artists DID recognize Rousseau's talent later in his life.

I love how historical figures are included in the illustrations -- in the back the illustrator provides a diagram of "who's
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This striking picture book is a biography of the artist, Henri Rousseau. It tells the story of this man as he started to do art at forty years old. Rousseau dreamt of being an artist because he saw so much beauty and color everywhere. He couldn’t afford lessons, so he read many books to learn techniques and structure. At age 41, Rousseau entered an art exhibition for the first time. The art experts said mean things about his art, but Rousseau kept painting. Inspired by the World’s Fair in Paris, ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Markel presents a child-friendly and interesting career biography of the artist, Rousseau. The story is well-written , and the illustrations are interesting and gorgeous. Both the writing and the illustrations will appeal to children and adults. Markel's focus on Rousseau's continual efforts, repeated failures, and eventual success will expose children to the relationship between perseverance, having thick skin, and the potential for success, regardless of background. I highly recommend this ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are two things that make this book stand head and shoulders above many other works: the clear, evocative, concise writing AND the stunning, imaginative, lush illustrations. I found the subject matter intriguing and significant. Although I was quite familiar with the famous imagery of Henri Rousseau, there was so much about his life that I DIDN'T know before I read this wonderful book. I HIGHLY recommend it to parents, teachers, and art appreciators of all ages!

-- H A L
Edward Sullivan
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful introduction to the artist and his bold, dreamy vision.
Nancy Kotkin
Inspiring picture book biography of the self-taught artist Henri Rousseau, a toll collector who started painting when he was 40 years old. The man who brought us such lush tropical jungles never saw one in person due to his financial constraints. Lyrical text conveys the true spirit of this talented, determined man and his life. Gorgeous, vibrantly colored illustrations invoke the style of Rousseau but with a uniqueness and child-friendly flavor.
Richie Partington
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richie’s Picks: THE FANTASTIC JUNGLES OF HENRI ROUSSEAU by Michelle Markel and Amanda Hall, ill., Eerdman’s, June 2012, 36p., ISBN: 978-0-8028-5364-6

“Walking through forests of palm tree apartments
Scoff at the monkeys who live in their dark tents
Down by the waterhole, drunk every Friday
Eating their nuts, saving their raisins for Sunday
Lions and tigers who wait in the shadows
They’re fast but their lazy, and sleep in green meadows”
-- “Bungle in the Jungle” by Ian Anderson (recorded in Henri
Jun 22, 2015 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
1) Twin Text - The Sandal Artist by Kathleen Pelley, 2012.
2) Rationale - The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau chronicles how Rousseau struggled to become an artist. He did not begin painting until he was forty, and it took twenty years for anyone to take him seriously. Rousseau would wander Paris looking for inspiration, teaching himself to paint flowers, plants, and animals. He works hard year after year to perfect his art, and in the end, he becomes one of the most "gifted self-taught
Margo Tanenbaum
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The life and art of French artist Henri Rousseau are vividly brought to life in a recent release by author Michelle Markel and illustrator Amanda Hall. Rousseau is best known for his post-impressionist paintings depicting jungle scenes, although he never left France. Rousseau, we learn from Markel's succinct yet poetic text, wants to be an artist, even though he is 40 years old, a toll collector, and has never had any art training. "Why? Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their older children
Ever since the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads chose artists for their January 2013 discussion, I have been borrowing all of the picture books about artists that I can find at our local library.

This is an interesting book about Henri Rousseau. It describes the beginnings of his artistic career and the struggles he had to gain acceptance for his artwork. The narrative is short and does not overwhelm the reader with too many details. But I found the information
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Not only is this book adorable and educational, it is downright inspirational to kids:

"Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist.
Not a single person has ever told him he is talented.
He's a toll collector.
He's forty years old.

But he buys some canvas, paint, and brushes,
and starts painting anyway."

At 23 years old, I'm not ashamed to admit that I very much enjoyed this book, from the bright and amusing art work, to the story of Rousseau and his pure determination to become a respected artist (I even
Jim Erekson
So while the words of this book are biographical, the illustrations are a clear presentation of Rousseau's style. Hall did a remarkable job of keeping consistent with this stylistic mimicry while inventing scenes that were her own.

Like so many modern artist biographies, this one emphasizes the narrative of 'artist persists despite critical rejection' (along with 'he died poor and not so famous'). I'm not sure what to make of that narrative today--why is it the accepted story of an artist's
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have to love a juvenile biography that starts with the lines: "Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist. Not a single person has ever told him he is talented. He is a toll collector. He is forty years old." Rousseau was always poor and he didn't receive acclaim until the end of his life, when modern painters like Picasso 'discovered' him. This beautiful book, which is in keeping with Rousseau's attitudes and primitive style, does him justice. This is a good, unusual title for librarians to give to ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Before this book I didn't know anything about Henri Rousseau. Now that I've read it I'm curious to know more! It was a lovely book with gorgeous paintings, the illustrator did a wonderful job portraying his art and yet still making it her own. I loved how the author had real contemporaries of Mr. Rousseau's time, and little number guides to show you who was who. I would really like it if this was a new series of children's books about famous painters!
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don't ever give up. Henri Rousseau picked up his first paint and brushes at age 40, then continued to annually submit paintings to Salons around Paris to great ridicule, personifying persistence. Charming illustrations in which Rousseau's real paintings are cleverly edited to present the story as it moves from artistic unknown to well-loved "naive" artiste, friend to Pablo Picasso & Gertrude Stein. The text is middle grade friendly but full of life and effervescent vocabulary.
John of Canada
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-readers
One of my plans for the new year is to learn as much about art and artists as possible.This book was a great start.The artwork was fun and representative.I am very interested in the Salons of Paris and the battles between creativeness and the status quo.I will read more of Markel.Next up Marc Chagall!
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love the inspirational message, the historical accuracy, and Michelle Markel's storytelling. My kids love the pictures. Oh, wait . . . I just remembered: I love the pictures, too. A lot. They're gorgeous.
Inspirational life of the artist. Richly illustrated with captivating bold art reminiscent of Rousseau. Other major figures in the art and literary world are worked into the pictures done in a watercolor acrylic mix. Recommend for grades K - 3rd.
Nitza Campos
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A wonderful story about never giving up your dreams and doing what you love, despite the critics. The illustrations in this book are colorful and vivid. This book is a wonderful way to introduce Henri Rousseau.
Carol Ekster
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great picture book biography. It's interesting and Rousseau's story will be inspirational to children - how he was made fun of by critics at first, but then was accepted and his work appreciated. He didn't give up his dream. Perfect illustrations for the story. Well done!
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
positively beautiful book, story and illustrations. I can't wait to try Rousseau for my Exploring Great Artists program now!
Paul  Hankins
Wouldn't this one be a neat inclusion in the art classroom?
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another children's picture book biography. The choice of subject Rousseau, and artist I knew little about was a good one. The writing was clear and breezy, though perhaps a little long for a picture book. The art was fine but suffers from the usual art picture book, hard to tell the picture book art from the real art unless you are already very familiar with the work. The afterword could have been a bit stronger and more detailed. In the end it was not an amazing book, but a solid good one. 3.5 ...more
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Michelle Markel has written several notable nonfiction picture books, including the The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, (PEN Picture Book Writing Award) Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 (Jane Addams Flora Stieglitz Award; Orbis Pictus Honor) and Tyrannosaurus Math (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice). Her upcoming title is Balderdash: John Newbery and the ...more