The Stone Giant – A Picture Book Review for PPBF

Today, I’m reviewing the non-fiction picture book, Stone Giant – Michelangelo’s David And How He Came To Be. 

Back in my college days (I meant years) I sat in a dimly lit auditorium with my classmates, learning art history. Slide after slide flashed up on the screen as I jotted down everything the instructor said.

“And now class, let’s take a look at the great sculpture of David by Michelangelo.”

I glanced up from my notes and gasped. Rising strong and tall from a marble platform stood an incredibly handsome man with (pardon the pun) perfectly chiseled features. Sigh… The instructor went on to tell us the location of the statue, the background of Michelangelo, and the material he carved the statue from. What the instructor didn’t tell us was the remarkable story of how Michelangelo was chosen for this task — a critical piece of historic significance covered in today’s brilliantly illustrated picture book.

Title – Stone Giant – Michelangelo’s David and how he came to be

Written by – Jane Sutcliffe

Illustrated by – John Shelley

Published by – Charlesbridge  2014

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Art history, Michelangelo’s David

Opening – There was a giant in the city of Florence. It had been there for nearly forty years. And no one knew what to do about it. The giant was an enormous block of stone–marble, to be exact. It stood three times as tall as any man in the city. It was the color of cream. And it was a troublemaker.

Amazon Review – view it HERE. No one wanted the “giant.” The hulking block of marble lay in the work yard, rained on, hacked at, and abandoned—until a young Michelangelo saw his David in it. This is the story of how a neglected, discarded stone became a masterpiece for all time. It is also a story about art—about an artist’s vision and process, and about the ways in which we humans see ourselves reflected in art.

Why do I like this book? What I like is that this book doesn’t begin on the day Michelangelo was asked to carve the statue of David. The book begins with the history of the giant block of marble, resting in the city of Florence. I was surprised to learn that other artists came before Michelangelo. I was more surprised to learn that Leonardo da Vinci was asked to sculpt David and turned down the request. The illustrations are thoughtful, brimming with details, expressive, and perfectly fitting to this story.
Watch the book trailer here.

Learn about Jane Sutcliffe HERE.

Lear about John Shelley HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

What would you carve if you were given a great block of marble? Please let me know in the comments.

Let’s Go To Italy for Our Writing Warm-Up! – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-APhotographs make great jump-off places for story inspirations and writer warm-ups.  

Pour yourself a cappuccino and let’s get started!

Venice panoramaYour setting is Venice, Italy. Your main character could be a native Italian, an American traveling through Venice on business, or a young girl visiting her aunt for the first time. What if your main character is one of the many cats loitering between the buildings in this marvelous city, quietly aware of everything? Perhaps the water taxis are nowhere to be seen and the only mode of transportation is by gondola. Many options await you! The gondolier could misunderstand the address you give him and take you someplace else: a street fair, a cathedral, a museum, a bookbinding shop… The previous passenger could step out of the gondola in a hurry and leave a package, letter, or list behind. The gondolier could be a spy. He could also be related to one of your cousins. He could know the aunt your main character is visiting. Where will this photograph take you?

Another view of Venice.  

Two gondolas parked side by side.

Your main character observed the two gondoliers exchanging more than conversation.

Venice verticalThen the two men crossed the bridge and disappeared.

What lies beneath each canvas cover?

Where are the gondoliers?

For that matter, where have the Italians and tourists disappeared to?

A stillness has fallen over the city.

Where are the birds?

The shops are empty.

Windows are dark.

curtains are drawn.

Gelato stands are abandoned.

Or perhaps on a less gloomy note, it is early in the morning, the city is waking up, and the first day of your vacation awaits you.

As always, I wish you happy writing!