Inside the CBCA Shortlist
Make Believe: M.C. Escher for Kids (National Gallery of Victoria) is shortlisted in the CBCA Eve Pownall category for information books. It was written to complement the Escher artworks shown at the Gallery but has an ongoing life of its own after the exhibition.
The book is well designed with a contents page and photographic representations of the illustrated work at the end. There is quite minimal, well-chosen written text in this sumptuous production. The illustrations do most of the work of communicating the life and art of 20th century Dutchman M.C. Escher. Escher, or Maurits, as he is known in the book, lived in Italy for many years and was inspired by the landscape – built and natural – there.
Make Believe is structured as a mixture of biography and art, with interactive activities for children and tangents into geometry and science based on Escher’s work. Above all, it is a wonderful exploration and celebration of his art for primary-aged children.
The National Gallery of Victoria’s website is https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/
Using the book with children:
Textured Scenes View the scenes on pages 11,12,13,22,25. Then read about the techniques that Escher used to achieve texture, depth and realism such as shading, overlapping and lines (pages 24,25,46). Children use some of these to create their own scenes.
Tessellations Escher used geometry, including tessellations and polyhedrons, in his art works. View the examples on pages 17,56,62,63. Children make patterns using one or more of these shapes.
Printmaking Escher created scenes using linocut printmaking. He also used animals and living creatures, such as beetles, reptiles, birds in his work. Children each make a linocut of a living creature, e.g. cicada, butterfly, ladybird, and make a pattern using the repeated linocut.
Print Stamps Like Escher, page 17, children could also make stamps using small linocuts of an animal or geometric shape.
Optical Illusions Children try the optical illusion puzzles on pages 28-31 and 80. They could also create Möbius strips, pages 42,43 (instructions can be found by searching online).
Interactive Activities Complete the interactive activities in the book, such as counting steps, page 20; true or false, page 59; opposites, page 73.
Read Surrealism for Kids by the Queensland Art Gallery; books about optical illusions; Narelle Oliver’s linocut art books such as Sand Swimmers and The Hunt; and the excellent picture book Freefall by David Wiesner, which uses some Escher-like techniques.