Monday, November 5, 2007

Genre 5: Historical Fiction/Biography

1. Bibliography:
Stanley, Diane. 2000. MICHELANGELO. Hong Kong: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-688-15085-3

2. Plot Summary:
Diane Stanley once again captures the essence of her subject, this time Michelangelo, to create a masterpiece. Michelangelo Buonarroti’s life unfolds to reveal a chaotic, cantankerous artist who suffered with disappointment, loneliness, and frustration. Stanley tells the story of this Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect and poet most famous for his work on the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

3. Critical Analysis:
Stanley’s beautifully illustrated biography of Michelangelo enhances the artist’s work while adding visual depth to understanding his immense gift. Michelangelo’s art was his life and that is expertly defined in this quote, “I already have a wife who is too much for me; one who keeps me unceasingly struggling on. It is my art, and my works are my children.” Stanley provides many graphic aids to enrich the details of the story. A map of Italy in the Age of Michelangelo helps the reader understand the distance traveled by the artist in the course of his life. She also includes a Bibliography for reference to other sources about the great artist, which gives credibility to the details of his existence. Readers will enjoy the trivia facts about some of Michelangelo’s works that provide a human and realistic quality to a long gone icon. Stanley intersperses the narrative of Michelangelo’s life with details about the art itself. When telling about the painting of the Sistine Chapel she notes that, “Michelangelo had painted the ceiling in reverse…As a result of what he saw, he approached the second half differently…His style changed too, gradually becoming more confident and bold.” When discussing the painting, The Last Judgment, we learn that he, “even painted himself into the picture in a most gruesome way—his is the dark, distorted face on the flayed skin held by Saint Bartholomew.” This poignant and insightful account of Michelangelo’s life allows the reader to see the artist as he really existed, complete with frustrations, doubts, insecurities, and family problems. Stanley completes her own masterpiece by showing us that Michelangelo was a real person who happened to have a great gift of art.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred in KIRKUS. “This handsome, affordable, lavishly illustrated and wonderfully readable book has broad appeal. It deserves heavy representation in home, school, and public library collections.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Stanley captures in words and pictures the essence of Michelangelo, man of the Renaissance--sculptor, painter, architect.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “Stanley continues her series of outstanding biographies, but this time she puts a new twist on some venerable art by using computer images. One of the most pleasing things about Stanley's books is the way her sturdy texts stand up to her strong artwork.

5. Connections:
Other books by Diane Stanley:
CLEOPATRA. ISBN 0-688-15480-8
Related books:
Vasari, Giorgio. 2003. LIFE OF MICHELANGELO. ISBN 0-8189-0935-8
Cook, Diane. 2003. MICHELANGELO. ISBN 1-59084-156-5
*Research Michelangelo and other Renaissance Artists on the Internet.
*Compare Diane Stanley’s other works and find similarities and differences between them. (Especially fun would be to compare and contrast Michelangelo and DaVinci)
*Have students choose one illustration from the book and write a story about it.
*Show a book of Anatomy and have students try to draw the human form.

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