Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Book 1, Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip, by Barbara Cairns, with art by Eugene Ruble, is the first book in a series about famous paintings and one venturesome cat. Gatsby is a cat with a special ability to “jump” into paintings at night in his owner Annabelle’s art galley. You can imagine he will have a lot of adventures in new paintings. There is a catch – Gatsby has to jump out before sunrise so everything in the painting will go back to normal.
In this first adventure, Gatsby sees the fun the boys have playing the “Snap the Whip” game in this version of Homer Winlow’s famous painting. He jumps in for a closer look and is happily exploring. However, he gets sidetracked by other creatures and misses the exit deadline. When he jumps out, he has left the painting in a “mess.” He has to go back and try to fix it the next day.
This book series gives the illustrator, Eugene Ruble, the opportunity to combine his talent with those of some famous artists. In this first book, his portrayal of the people shows their emotions and enjoyment of life. His pastels contrast well with Homer Winslow’s “realism.” We’ll see what challenges await him as the series progresses.
This book blends together humor, art history and art education, adventure, and enjoyment of life. I especially like Barbara Cairns’ use of language to enhance the story -- and bring it to life -- such as:
“His long tail twitched. His nose itched. His haunches hitched. SNAP! With a tremendous leap, Gatsby landed in the soft, green grass. He rolled in it. He nibbled it. He peeked through it. The grass tickled his belly.”
The concept of this series – fun experiences and education through art – is uplifting. Teachers and parents will appreciate the art information and websites provided at the end of the book. Children will enjoy each of Gatsby’s adventures in this and future paintings. We can hardly wait for Gatsby’s next adventure when we playfully jump into the painting with him!