Fancy That by Esther Hershenhorn is a delightful picture book for children. What a great way to learn about American history in the early 1800s!
When a Limner, or Fancy Painter, and his wife die, they leave behind two daughters and a son who are doomed for poverty if they don't do something. The son Pippen Biddle decides to rescue the family by following in his father's footsteps. Loading up his supplies, he takes to the road to paint portraits.
Limners were very popular in the early 19th Century before the camera was invented. Limners painted portraits for ordinary folks and were often left unsigned. They painted their clients in a simple, flat style using oils, watercolor, ink, or egg tempera. The paintings of these traveling limners hang in museums around the world, remembered as American folk art.
The story traces Pip's adventures as he faces difficult clients who don't really want realistic paintings of themselves. He sends little paintings and notes home to his sister along the way. When he finally heads home, a bit discouraged, his sisters have a surprise of their own.
The illustrator of Fancy That wanted to make her paintings as authentic as possible so she made her own paint. She started with raw color pigments, grinding them with a muller, a glass grinder. She added distlled water to make a paste and stored the paste in glass jars. When she was ready to paint, she added some egg whites to the paste to make paint.
I love that!
Her paintings capture the American folk style of the limners of the early 1800s, adding to the charm of the book.
As a history buff and a lover of historical fiction, this book captured my heart. It revealed the reality of the romantic life of an itinerant painter, or limner, who traveled through the American countryside. The illustrations just complete the history lesson! For me, this was an incredible find for teaching history to little lambs.
But, wait! This book is more. It's a charming story with beautiful illustrations and will delight the hearts of children. And, after all, isn't that the purpose of a picture book?
This would make a great addition to a family, grandparent, or homeschool library. I highly recommend this book.