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REVIEWS of Gatsby's Grand Adventures # 1

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 gallery. 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 Winslow Homer'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 Winslow Homer's "realism". We'll see what challenges await him as the series progresses.

This book blends 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!

Penelope Anne Cole 

Review # 2

In Gatsby's Grand Adventure we get a double helping of artistic fare. No-- make that a triple helping. We have Barbara's colorful, energetic writing, Eugene's amusing illustrations, and Winslow Homer's realistic, homey American paintings.

Barbara presents the problem right up front. "Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle's art gallery. At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings. When he remembered to jump out before sunrise, everything was fine. But sometimes, Gatsby forgot."

Ut, oh. Did you see the word "WHEN"? I think we have one of those "when"s coming up.

And what more fun painting for Gatsby to jump into than Winslow Homer's "Crack the Whip"?

In the painting, eight boys are playing crack the whip in front of a one-room schoolhouse. Homer captures the spirit of fun and freedom of children of the 1870s (check out those clothes).

If you or your child, grandchild, or school class don't know how to play crack the whip-you must take a look at this painting. Kids used to have hilarious fun without gadgetry-- just friends.

Eugene not only had to reproduce Homer's subjects, but add Cairns' characters as well. And they are Gatsby the cat, his mistress Miss Annabelle, and a mouse and a dog. He even goes inside the schoolhouse. And he does it smoothly and convincingly. 

Barbara's main character, Gatsby, has a penchant for entering the paintings in the gallery. But when he enters "Crack the Whip", he causes a minor problem. It's funny the way one problem leads to another until Gatsby finally sets things right.

Barbara Bockman 

Comments from Barbara Bockman's Blogspot

Great review, Barbara! That's a creative story idea, having a cat jump into a famous painting! I've never heard of crack the whip and so i learned something new.


Hi Barbara, What a good review! I wish Barbara Cairns every success. 

Penelope Anne Cole 

I'm with you, Penny. She has a good handle on creating a great plot and characters. i know she will go far.

Barbara Bockman 

Terrific review as always, Barbara. Best of luck with the lovely new book.

Nancy Stewart 

Hi Nancy. i'm wishing the same for "the other" Barbara. 

Barbara Bockman 

Sounds like a delightful story, Barbara. I love art and a cat that jumps into famous pieces of art is a clever idea. Homer's work is perfect for the setting. i remember having fun playing crack the whip as a kid. (My guess is that, like red rover, protective adults these days wouldn't encourage kids to play it, because you can sometimes get hurt with it. Kids used to think the fun was worth the risk.)

Evelyn Christenson 

What a cute premise!

Laura S. 

Yes it is, Laura. and clever enough to become a well-loved series.

Barbara Bockman 

What a clever idea. as an art educator, I can see this as a wonderful way to encourage younger children in learning about art and art history. It reminds me of The Girl with the Watering Can. I like the idea of a gallery cat entering the paintings. Thanks for sharing.

diane kress hower 

What a creative concept for a book!

Janet Ann Collins 

I agree with you, Janet Ann; and there's just no end to the number of books Barbara can write with this concept. Barbara, we are tickled that you are now an Angel too.

Barbara Bockman 

Review # 3

I've just read GATSBY'S GRAND ADVENTURES, the first of what I hope will be many children's books by Barbara Cairns to combine an intriguing story for beginning readers with art history. Cairns, a retired teacher, masterfully blends the tale of Gatsby, a mischievous feline given to night forays jumping in and out of paintings, with what will likely be a youngster's first exposure to one of America's iconic painters.

While his owner Miss Annabelle, keeper of an art gallery, frets over mysterious changes to her precious painting-Winslow Homer's "Snap the Whip"- young readers follow Gatsby's exploits in the world inside the painting. there is just enough magical thinking to catch the fancy of children and to keep them reading or listening while unbeknownst to them, they learn. I've sent a copy to my grandsons.

E. Trimpert "antares" 

Review # 4

Winslow Homer's famous painting, Snap the Whip. portrays boys playing a game that was popular with kids over 100 years ago.In this book for kids, Gatsby the cat has the magical ability to jump into paintings at night. But if he doesn't get back into his own world before dawn, the art will be changed and that's what happens in Snap the Whip. Gatsby tries several times to return into the painting and correct the changes that happened because of his visits, but keeps being delayed by his adventures until it's too late.

The author, Barbara Cairns, does a wonderful job of getting kids interested in this famous work of art and young readers from seven to twelve years old will enjoy the book. There's interesting information about Winslow Homer that can be used in school reports at the end.

The illustrations by Eugene Ruble add to the charm and will encourage younger kids to enjoy hearing the story read aloud. 

I have a feeling Gatsby's Grand Adventures is only the first book about this magical cat.

Janet Ann Collins 

Comments from Janet Ann Collins Blog

"Gatsby's Grand Adventures" sounds like a keeper for any child's library.

Susan Hornbach 

I do enjoy reading reviews of this clever and useful book as I enjoyed reviewing it on my blog as well. 

Barbara Bockman 

I like the book/series concept- introducing kids to great works of art in a series of fun adventures. Wishing Barbara much success.

Penelope Anne Cole 

"Very imaginative"

Donna Shepherd 

This book's so adorable. I love all the clever contrivances to get kids, animals from one world to another-all best wishes on this.

Nancy Stewart