Reviews /

Henri and the Machine

Authored by Isabelle Marinov
Illustrated by Olga Shtonda
Published by Templar Publishing

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Henri and the Machine is a story which tackles a profound and complex question: What’s the point of art? A school class is on a gallery visit and Henri is unimpressed by the modern art he encounters. Why would anyone want to paint tins of soup, melting watches and eyes in the wrong places. He would much rather be at the beach, swimming and collecting shells. He finds a painting he does like. It is all blue, his favourite colour, and sparks connections to favourite things. Entering an empty room, he encounters a chair with the strange question, ‘is this is a chair?’ What happens next sets of a chain of events which will change Henri’s perspective completely.

Olga Shtonda’s illustrations make this a work of art in itself. She pays homage to artists such as Magritte, Picasso, Dali, Mondrian, Warhol and Klein and her interpretations are great fun to spot. She captures the joy of children actively engaging with art in vibrant illustrations which leap from the page. Isabelle Marinov’s thoughtful text paints its own picture with wonderfully constructed sentences using sumptuous vocabulary.

Henri and the Machine is a book whose overarching message: ‘The only thing that matters is how art makes you feel’ will be pertinent to those who are baffled by modern art. The book gives permission to respond emotionally to art, not to have to explain what it means. A fantastic book to support the art curriculum for the whole primary age range and one that could be read in a whole school assembly. I would share it with younger children to inspire them to produce their own inventions. Highly recommended and a book that deserves its inclusion on the longlist for The Klaus Flugge Prize.

Longlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2024