Museum Trip (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Author and Illustator: Barbara Lehman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006
Interest Level: Ages 4 to 7
Reading Level: N/A
Retail: $7.99, paperback
Summary: In this wordless tale, a boy on a field trip to a museum gets separated from the rest of his class when he stops to tie his shoe. Lost in the labyrinthine halls of the museum, he discovers a secret door. He steps inside a room to find a display case holding drawings of mazes. He is magically transported inside of the mazes, and after finding his way out, he is awarded a medal. He then rejoins his class in the museum... with the medal still around his neck.
I have a special fondness for wordless books. Good illustrations can convey action, mood, emotion, and a sense of time. They can be "read" by children who are not yet able to read words, and they can start conversations when shared among two or more people.
I am also quite fond of museums as an informal learning environment. The act of collecting is integral to preserving and understanding unwritten history. While some might feel that an art museum is too difficult for a young child to understand, virtually all children understand the drive to collect things and admire them.
This book is beautifully illustrated (you may recognize the author/illustrator Barbara Lehman, author of The Red Book , a Caldecott Honor Book).Through simple, bold ink and watercolor scenes, we tour a museum that many adults could only dream of visiting. We see a teacher guiding a tour and talking to children about artwork, but cannot hear what she is saying. The reader is invited to look at the illustrations to see what is so interesting.
The outcome of the story leaves you wondering whether the boy's adventure was real or imaginary. Where did the medal come from? The book is a metaphor for how museums can transport you to a different time and place. The medal is also an appeal to children who benefit from feeling a sense of mastery as they learn new things.
The idea that a child could actually wander off unnoticed and open closed doors in a museum is far fetched and a wee bit worrisome, but we are invited to suspend disbelief. Some parents, educators, and museum docents may find that harder to do than others.
This is a wonderful book for a classroom, a child's home, or even the backseat of a car. It can be browsed many times, and new details pop out each time. The multicultural cast of characters is shown without commentary (wordless book, remember), as it should be. Grab this one.