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I know many parents and visitors to this site are frequently on the hunt for captivating books for their older readers..and lucky me, I just discovered a new one!
Southern Gothic by Middle Grade/YA author Bridgette Alexander is a wonderful new book which incorporates art and mystery in very intriguing ways. I learned of Bridgette and this intriguing book when so became one of our Author Sponsors for Multicultural Children’s Book Day in January.
Celine Caldwell lives a life of privilege, allowed into the elite art community of NYC thanks to her powerhouse mother who is a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Julia Caldwell has made a prestigious name for herself in the art community. With that comes loyal followers as well as fervent enemies, and Celine soon gets wrapped up in her mother’s political and backwards world.
Two paintings have gone missing from the Met’s archives, paintings that Julia Caldwell publicly deemed unfit for the Met’s prestigious reputation and her selective exhibitions. Julia’s attitude towards the paintings pinpoints her as the head suspect in the NYPD’s investigation into the missing paintings. Celine cannot stand by and let her mother be accused of something she knows she would never in a million years do. Julia may not appreciate the paintings, but she would most certainly never steal them.
Celine and her best friends Sandy, Baheera, and Troy jump right into their own investigation, unaware just how over their heads than they are. But Celine soon realizes that there’s much more to these paintings than meets the eye. While they might seem simple on the surface level, they tell a story—a true story at that, one that is near to a lot of people’s hearts and forces Celine and her friends to relive a murky time in the American South’s history.
Despite the mystery and the danger that follows her investigation, Celine manages to crack the code, piece together the story behind the missing paintings, and clear her mother’s name. All while dating a new guy and managing to stay in school. I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you say?
Learning about Art from Southern Gothic:
I actually learned a lot about art in this novel. I enjoy looking at art, but I cannot say I’m necessarily profound in my analyses of them. But Celine Caldwell taught me a lot. For instance, a provenance is a record of ownership of a work of art, used as a guide to authenticity and quality. Celine’s investigation involved creating a provenance for the Southern Gothic art trilogy.
Pieces of art have been used as legal documents in the past. The Marriage of Arnolfini depicts a wedding of the Italian Medici family, and it basically serves as a marriage licence. Portrait d’une Negresse depicts an African-American woman after she was freed from slavery and brought to France. This painting serves as her ticket of freedom, showing that she is a free citizen, not a slave.
You’ll have to involve yourself in Celine’s investigation to learn more.
Bridgette R. Alexander is a modern art historian. She received her graduate training in 19th century French art history at the University of Chicago. Alexander worked with some of the world’s greatest museums in New York, Paris, Berlin and Chicago and developed art education programs; curated exhibits; she has taught and published in art history. She’s been featured in a number of publications including, Art + Auction Magazine; the Wall Street Journal; and the Washington Post. SOUTHERN GOTHIC is her debut novel. Alexander currently lives in Chicago and when not writing, she takes her husband, daughter and friends on midnight tours of the cultural institutions.
**Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission.
This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!
Something To Do: Interesting Links if you’re interested in getting more involved in the art community:
Planning a visit to France? You have to stop at the world’s biggest museum, Le Louvre. And I’d plan your day around this massive museum. You can get lost for hours in this magnificent building.
Speaking of art…Do you know what Hans Christian Andersen liked as much as his fairy tales?
Paper! He was an addict to paper. He wrote on it, he drew on it and he use to cut in it. Just like a sculptor carves the figure out of stone, Hans Christian Andersen use to cut his stories out of paper. In fact he was a very popular paper cutter. (images courtesy of the Odense Museum)
In order to amuse his friends and their children, Hans made his very famous paper cuts. Wherever he would go he would carry his bag filled with paper and these very large monstrous scissors which he used to cut out the most elegant figures.
Would you like to create a very special item that is inspired by the paper cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen?
I’ve made a FREE off the shoulder felt story bag craft and tutorial just for this occasion! This simple craft is something the whole family can participate in creating it will make a delightful gift for the book lover in your life. I hope your little bag of tales holds as many wonders for you as ours has.
Click the image below and get instant access to this Hans Christian Andersen-inspired shoulder bag!