Cover image for The fantastic journey of Pieter Bruegel
The fantastic journey of Pieter Bruegel
Shafer, Anders C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations, color map ; 32 cm
For over two years in the mid-1500s, Pieter Bruegel keeps a journal of his trip from his home in Antwerp, The Netherlands, to Rome, where he studies art before returning home again.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.6 0.5 60318.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

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In the 1550s, a gifted young painter traveled south from Antwerp to study the art and ruins of Rome. He was Pieter Bruegel, now recognized as a Northern Renaissance master. His dangerous, beautiful journey changed his work forever. Embracing what is known, Anders Shafer has envisioned Bruegel's two-year sojourn in a series of brilliantly imagined diary entries and colorful paintings. We see Bruegel joking with peasants, confronting thieves in mountain passes, caught in a naval battle, working in Rome, and more, always astutely observing and drawing human nature. This unusual book vividly evokes Bruegel's growing sensibility and shows how art carries our common humanity across the centuries. An Author's Note and a gallery of Bruegel art are included.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-7. As Shafer notes, artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder "left no written records of his trip" from Antwerp to Italy during the mid-1500s. Shafer imagines the trip, writing about it as if Bruegel had kept a journal, and the result is an episodic, idiosyncratic story in a handsome format. This is a picture book for older children; however, most of the audience will not know Bruegel and more context would have been helpful before plunging into his story. The text itself is intriguing with strong word images, but some passages need more explanation, particularly one in which a Catholic soldier shoves "a Protestant bearing the fuel with which he would be burned." The illustrations are well imagined, beautifully rendered drawings washed with watercolors and acrylics; they also have some quixotic elements. The book ends with two solid, instructive additions that might have been more useful as part of the introduction: a four-page section with 16 very small, color reproductions of Bruegel's paintings, each accompanied by identifying notes and a well-written paragraph of comments, as well as a page about the artist's life and works. Adult help will probably be necessary for kids to get the most out of this. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Based on imagined events during Bruegel's real-life two-year journey through mid 16th-century France and Italy, newcomer Shafer's luminous watercolor and pencil illustrations spill across the large-scale format with the vivacious humanity characteristic of the great Northern Renaissance painter. As in Bruegel's work, the pictorial settings surrounding the young artist are rich with dramas large and small. The narrative, conveyed through chatty diary entries, tells of thieving boys in the Alps and Ottoman soldiers battling in Reggio. Shafer thus drives home the idea that Bruegel lived and traveled among real people with all their frailties and foibles, characters and ideas that would continue to inform his work. Together, text and illustrations create a portrait of a place and time complete with the plague and the pope's private zoo as well as an introduction to an artist whose work and themes are highly accessible to children. Unfortunately, the 16 paintings and drawings by Bruegel, reproduced as a kind of postscript, are too small to do justice to the artist's genius; one double-page spread of The Wedding Banquet, for instance, would have conveyed Bruegel's magic more effectively than the miniatures assembled here. A lengthy author's note with considerable historical background rounds out this visually appealing evocation of the man behind the art. Ages 8-12.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-An inviting illustrated chronicle of Bruegel's trip from Antwerp to Rome in the 16th century. The lively fictional diary entries report exciting events and provide a sense of the difficult times in which he lived. In the course of his journey, he encounters a Huguenot carrying straw for his own fiery execution, people suffering from a plague, a sea battle at Reggio, and even the smells of poverty. Very little is known about the subject's life, so Shafer imaginatively reconstructs the journey from the sometimes conflicting accounts that exist and from the artist's paintings and drawings. The use of the first person adds immediacy. Some entries have themes directly related to Bruegel's paintings, such as The Alchemist, The Beekeepers, and, perhaps his most famous image, The Hunters in the Snow. Shafer's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations perfectly capture the events of the engaging narrative. The biggest disappointment is the lack of source notes. Despite a detailed note that explains the lack of documentation about the painter's life, Shafer only refers to "my sources" and does not provide a bibliography. Otherwise, this is an appealing introduction to the painter, to the tradition of the artistic pilgrimage, and 16th-century life in general.-Robin L. Gibson, Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.