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Is this fiction, non-fiction or something different? Anna and Johanna - a book to own.

Category unknown – but very wonderful indeed! Part fiction. Part non-fiction. Aha! 'Inspired by', that is the key. Each time I look at this book, I see more reasons to love it! This children’s book is inspired by the art of Jan Vermeer, the Dutch master. The story is completely fictional, but the author does an excellent job using two famous paintings and some historical facts to create a heartwarming tale. Although I enjoyed the story, the book in its totality will enrich the reader’s understanding of life in the Netherlands in the 1600's. Reading the back-matter and studying the paintings upon which the story is based will spark an interest in art and this artist’s life. Jan Vermeer's paintings, The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker, are replicated on both the back cover and inside the book. Details on where to see Vermeer’s art is also provided. This over-sized picture book is not only interesting to read but fun to hold and to study.

Anna and Johanna(English Edition April 2018) written by Geraldine Elschner and illustrated by Florence Koenig(sorry about the accent and proper spelling) has a suggested reading level of 4-8 years. The text is lengthy for a four-year-old and has some foreign language components, but the facts and the art will be interesting for second through fourth graders. Using the details found in two of Jan (Johanne) Vermeer’s famous paintings, the author has written a fictional story about two young girls who share a birthday but never knew why. Upon their tenth birthday, they find a letter from the ‘father’ of one of the girls explaining how this could be. The girls realize that they have been sisters all along even though one lived as a maid servant’s child and the other, a privileged life, as the master of house’s daughter.

The back matter includes insight from the illustrator on her own artistic methods and the author explains her inspiration for the story.

If Art Appreciation or Art Masterpiece is a component of your school curriculum this would be a great book to introduce younger generations to the Dutch masters. Geraldine Elschner has other 'inspired by' books featuring works by Claude Monet and Paul Klee.

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