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20th February 2004 at 00:00
People in Art, Places in Art, Stories in Art, Feelings in Art, Animals in Art and Imagination in Art. Cherrytree Books, pound;5.99 each.

Magic in Art. By Alexander Sturgis. Belitha, pound;5.99 paperback; pound;11.99 hardback

Dictionary of Art Terms. Thames and Hudson, pound;7.99.

Children's Art. By Mary McInally. Southgate, pound;14.95

The beautifully illustrated In Art series from Cherrytree Books is ideally suited for upper-primary and lower secondary pupils, but could be useful well into the advanced secondary stage.

Clare Gogerty, George Taylor and Louisa Somerville cover six key topics with flair and expertise. Concepts of high and low art melt away as the reader is exposed to a swathe of material. The series' cross-referencing provides coherent and balanced appreciation within the context of children's own lives. All six books are organised under seven sub-headings, and there are sections on featured artists and indexes. There are panels offering practical and well thought-out making-activities, and information and follow-up ideas to enrich learning. There is a linkage across cultures.

Works by women and lesser-known artists also feature highly. Information on artists and movements is succinct, informative and complemented by excellent full-colour illustrations.

Alexander Sturgis's Magic in Art uses captions to provide information on art that tricks the eye and challenges perception. Though serious and informative, a note of play enlivens the book. It has a very different structure and feel to the Cherrytree series. With a focus on western art and emphasis on painting and drawing, work by Dali, Escher, Arcimboldo and others is scrutinised for unusual features and skilful technique.

Thames and Hudson's Dictionary of Art Terms is a richly illustrated paperback which provides useful information on a wide range of art and design history, theory and practice. The language is concise and accessible, which makes it easy for secondary students to use. Readers can enjoy the illustrations for themselves or use them in conjunction with the text. The dictionary focuses on terms relevant to European art and more terms relating to artists from other cultures would have enhanced its usefulness. In spite of this, the publication is scholarly, yet accessible, and should prove invaluable to teachers and students alike.

Children's Art focuses on children's development through art and is richly illustrated with work by children. Art produced at different stages of development is clearly interpreted, shedding light on embedded meanings. A clear picture forms of children making sense of the world through mark-making activities and the vocabulary created in the process.

Mary McInally's own enjoyment of children's creativity shines out in the care taken over each detail and her celebration of the work. There is practical help, too.

Assessment, for example, is well handled, the author pointing out which aspects of achievement could be used to assess children's drawings at different stages. Intercultural approaches are included and varied techniques in a range of media. Such breadth and depth of research makes the book useful from pre-school to secondary.

Paul Dash

Paul Dash lectures in art education at Goldsmiths College, London

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