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Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winter
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Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes

by Jeanette Winter

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"If you had lived on Utopia Parkway not so long ago," begins this delightful picture-book biography of assemblage artist Joseph Cornell, "you might have walked past this house," referring to the Queens home of the now famous creator of magical box-collages assembled from found objects. Cornell neither drew nor painted - he made 'Wonderlands' in boxes, filled with "dreams and memories." Employed as a fabric salesman, he created these objects for his own pleasure, and for the children in his neighborhood, whom he considered his primary audience. Eventually word spread of his creations, and other artists and collectors sought him out. Although he achieved great success, Cornell never forgot who his true audience was, and his final exhibition, held in 1972 at the Cooper Union, was created especially for children.

Jeanette Winter, whose other picture-book biographies include such titles as The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps and The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, here crafts an informative read, one which encourages children to "see" Cornell in his natural habitat, as he went about his work. As an admirer both of Cornell's boxes and Winter's biographies, I was excited to discover Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes recently, and pleased to find that it lived up to my expectations. Both narrative and artwork are appealing, presenting the story of a man who followed his passion, whether that entailed creating intricate boxes full of objects found around New York City, or keeping journals that eventually totaled more than 30,000 pages. The artwork, with its dark outlines against white pages, in the spread featuring Cornell's house, or its muted purplish blues, used in depicting the various box themes, ably captures its subject matter. All in all, a lovely little biography, one I would recommend to children interested in art or the artistic process. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Feb 5, 2016 |
Lovely tribute to a shadow box artist who lived in Queens, New York. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Last week, I took a trek to our syllabus in search of good nonfiction authors for our weekly book sampling project. Afterward, I went to the youth and young adult sections in my local library and checked some books out by these authors. Jeanette Winter's "Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes" is a short informational picture storybook intended for very young children--the end pages say ages 4-8, and that seems about right. This book's emphasis seems to be more with the illustrations rather than forcing a narrative on the pages, which I think is a good thing. Still, I would say the organizational structure is narrative since the book reads like a fiction book but is actually nonfiction. Since the topic at hand deals with Mr. Cornell transposing his dreams into a tangible box, the narrative begs for a more lyrical, undulating, and less structured style of writing, and I think Jeanette Winter accomplishes that nicely. I also think she has a good knowledge of her target audience, the children themselves. Children are naturally curious, and relaying Mr. Cornell's story from the viewpoint of a young girl walking her dog while gazing through his windows makes the story engaging and relatable to them. I also appreciated how Ms. Winter not only included an author's note at the end, but that she also wrote it in such a way that young children could read it and comprehend it. This is a very simple book with ethereal illustrations that seems well-suited for a read-aloud to young children. ( )
  rdthomps | Mar 2, 2015 |
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Children young and old will delight in the artistic splendor of this illustrated nonfiction tale from the author of Henri's Scissors, which Booklist called an "exemplary picture-book biography." 
Joseph Cornell loved to draw and paint and collect things. With these drawings and paintings and collected treasures, he made marvelous shadowboxes--wonderlands covered in glass. And who did he most like to share them with? Children, of course. For they noticed all the details and took in all the magic Mr. Cornell had created. 
In this inspiring nonfiction picture book, Jeanette Winter has painted a moving portrait of a New York artist who always felt his work was best understood by children.
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Joseph Cornell loved to draw and paint and collect things. With these drawings and paintings and collected treasures, he made marvelous shadowboxes--wonderlands covered in glass. And who did he most like to share them with? Children, of course.

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