Christine Stevenson & Diane Duvall Full Review
Rapunzel’s Supermarket: All about Young Children and their Art by Ursula Kolbe

A group of children once gave the name Rapunzel’s Supermarket to a structure they had made out of clay. While the temporary structure only lasted for just one morning, this book-title reminds us of the long-lasting significance of emotions, understandings and skills from children’s art experiences. The title taps into the world of the imagination and, at the same time, grounds us into the everyday world of children.

It is rare to find a book on children’s art that is simultaneously clever yet practical, inspiring, but down to earth. The author, Ursula Kolbe, invites the reader to join her in celebrating the extraordinary brilliance of children’s imagination and their visual interpretation of the world. This book, based on a sound knowledge of the practice and philosophy of the visual arts, gives new insights into the complexities of children’s image-making.

The reader-friendly style of this book belies its complexity. The organisation unfolds a progression of sections from magic in everyday things, kinds of image-making, sharing interests and passions to other matters. Kolbe says “The book is not meant to be read from beginning to end. Dip into it at random if searching for ideas or turn to the table of contents or index for specific information.” But we defy you to resist the photographs that illustrate the range of materials used by children in their investigations. “Reading” the photographs is a lovely way to experience this book, and probably is as valuable as reading the text. As we explore the beautiful examples of children making sense and meaning of their world, we also find ourselves exploring the role of adults in supporting children’s day-to-day image-making.

Kolbe gives many examples of the way different materials provide opportunities for children to explore ideas in depth. In “The World of Trees” chapter we see children drawing trees from observation, building them in clay, examining their leaves on a light table and wondering about life in the soil under trees. The exploration of trees through different materials clearly enabled the children to enrich their own understandings and to share the perspectives of others.

The book empowers adults with the confidence to support, guide and appreciate the images children make inside and outside the home environment. You cannot view this book without gasping with awe at children’s insight and inventiveness. You cannot read Rapunzel’s Supermarket without being inspired by its glorious presentation, engaging progression of ideas and the leadership of the author to create this bold and innovative book.

Book review by Christine Stevenson, Art Education Consultant, Artist at 1+ 2 Artist Studios, Sydney and Diane Duvall, Training & Resource Officer, Lady Gowrie Child Centre, Sydney. In Reflections, National Gowrie RAP Publication Issue 4, Sept, 2001. Reproduced with kind permission from the authors.