Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel: The Builder with the Red Hat
The scope of this delightful book encompasses history, painting, 16th-century construction techniques, the conditions of workers, and the biblical story of the Tower of Babel–designed to reach up to heaven but doomed to chaos. Pieter Bruegel painted two colorful, intricate, and mesmerizing versions of the tower (this book shows both but focuses on just one in depth) and set them in his seaside hometown of Antwerp, Belgium. Subtitled The Builder with the Red Hat, this picture book circles in on a close-up of a tiny image–a man gesturing toward a building stone–and spins a tale about the construction site as if this tiny fellow were telling the story. It’s a charming device, and the text is written with great sensitivity to a child’s interests and listening ability. The style is conversational: “We should take a closer look”; “Let us ask the man wearing the red cap and the apron”; “I’m sure you can imagine how heavy the stone is that the worker is carrying on his back down the hill. Let’s follow him….” The language in the book is not overly simplified; “devices,” “incorporated,” or “extravaganza” would need explanation. But even for a 2- or 3-year-old, there are many pleasures to be had just from gazing into the pictures. This is just one title in a promising new series from Prestel called Adventures in Art.