Art is in the eye of the beholder and that is very true in How Dreadful! This book is about a young artist, named Paty, who only has a few days before her art opening and nothing is ready yet. Having friends pose for her is not the problem, but their feelings about what they see as the final portraits are. That is until the art is in the show and others see the works.
Claire Lebourg’s story was not necessarily for me, as I was thinking either something was missing, or I missed something. However, I did find it clever, and the idea good, but it felt “off” and that it was “all of a sudden all okay” when someone else said, “This is great!” I think the “art in the eye of the beholder” could have been sussed out a bit more (like it is okay if you do not like it, and it is okay if others do, but you do not have to like it, just because your friend/mother/spouse says they do). However, most people will be into it. And in fact, this theme is really obvious with the art of Lebourg themselves which most likely will be a “you will love it or not” situation, even though I am in the middle, whereas I like the idea of different animals and the soft colors and details, I think the cartoon aspect was a bit off putting for my personal tastes.
I have time to read How Dreadful! again (as an online reader copy) while I wait for the final product in mid-February 2024. This will allow me to see how multiple reads change or cement my feelings. But in the meantime I can read Corner by Zo-O. I think I have read this book before (as it came out in March 2023) and some things feel familiar, but I cannot really remember if I just saw samples or the whole item. Therefore, this mostly wordless picture book is a first time read (maybe). It is another art book that covers art, but in a different way from Lebourg’s work. This time art is not the focus of things, but comes afterwards as Crow needs to decorate their space. First there is just a corner and some walls. Then they add a bed, bookcase, lamp, rug, and a plant. Each addition is because it “needs something else” to add to the empty. But even as Crow has all the things, they are still missing something. They then add paint. Lots of wonderfully colorful yellow paint, and we see the plant growing. But still something is missing. And when Crow finds the perfect and final touch to the missing, we know that this is not the end, but a beginning to something else.
The minimalism of the art itself really makes things pop. Before the additions, things almost looked as if Crow was floating on air. Or in some sort of abstract lack-of-space-space. I am not sure if kids will “get the message” but they should enjoy the clever colors (the book case has colorful spines to the books and there are eventually shadows) and the building of the room. Both books could be for all ages, but like any title, know your reader.