Inspired by Dutch artist Jan Vermeer‘s work, Anna and Johanna is a children’s picture book that shares author Geraldine Elschner’s fictional tale of how the women of two of Vermeer’s most famous works, The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker, are connected.
A creative story that takes the real (e.g., Vermeer’s paintings, an explosion) and blends it with make-believe (e.g., the two woman from the paintings being connected), Anna and Johanna is an exemplar of what can happen when research and a creative spark are married.
Whereas I absolutely loved the idea behind the book, which was translated from French and comes out from Prestel in about a month, I became overwhelmed with the book’s wordiness.
The verbose pages make it a difficult read aloud text – especially for a young audience. The book may very well appeal more to upper elementary to middle school readers more than its intended audience of preschool or lower elementary students. But even then the amount of content along with the lack of flow might make the piece difficult for readers to access.
Koenig’s acrylics embody the Vermeer’s style – yet are so very unique. I just had my children’s literature students create original pieces based on the style of an illustrator. This would have been a great text to show my students.
A mentor text for artists who want to research particular written or artistic texts and then create original artwork, Anna and Johanna is a fine children’s picture book. It’s just not my absolute favorite.
Anna and Johanna earns three stars.