The Art Collector by Jan Wahl and Rosalinde Bonnet

Children are the most clear-headed about what they like or do not like — for proof, just try to make a kid do something — anything — that he or she doesn’t want to do. Inevitably, though, somewhere along the journey to become grown-ups, instead of listening to their own instincts and desires, they start to listen to others’ and emulate their behaviour; and sadly, they also learn how to be pragmatic, to give up on the things that are ostensibly impractical but which they enjoy, and instead do something that may not be exactly what they want to do but which has a more “practical” pay-off. Not that being practical is always a bad thing, of course, but it’s important to let kids be aware of all the available options, so that they can make informed decisions on their own.

But I digress.

The Art Collector is a heartwarming story about Oscar, a little boy whose love for art leads him to start a modest art collection — beginning with his great-granny’s painting of a chicken (which sparked his interest) and a cheap flea-market buy that he fell in love with. Through the years, as Oscar grows up, his beloved collection also expands to accommodate a wide variety of paintings that have all caught his eye. But the one painting that he enjoys looking at the most remains the only one that didn’t cost him a cent.

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I loved how the book depicts art collecting as a passion — something purely instinctive, enjoyable and doable, which kids can relate to — instead of the more cynical adult’s view of it as “an investment”. In any case, even serious art collectors will appreciate that the book encourages one to ‘buy/collect what you love’ — good advice for anyone, really.

There are many other children’s books that encourage them to develop their artistic abilities or express their creativity through art. All well and good, but not everyone is gifted artistically, or aspires to be an artist. This book thus presents another interesting option for kids who don’t necessarily like to create art, but can be encouraged to develop a keen appreciation for it.

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