With schools cutting back on art instruction, it’s up to parents to help pick up the slack. One would be wise to start with Anna Nilsen’s “Gallery Ghost,” because its readers won’t even realize they’re absorbing art history as they’re engrossed in tracking ghosts.
The gist of this hardback “ part graphic novel, part picture book “ is that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is haunted by two dozen ghosts of famous painters whose timeless works hang on its walls. At night, the spirits muck with one another’s paintings, dropping in details from pieces of their own. Using the built-in magnifying glass, readers are challenged to peruse the spook-doctored paintings and compare them against the originals to determine what’s been added and who’s responsible.
In other words, it’s like a highbrow version of Life magazine’s “Picture Puzzle” phenomenon, but starring such luminaries of the canvas as Gustav Klimt, Henri Rousseau, Edward Hopper and Auguste Renoir. Nilsen’s idea is near-genius, and comics illustrator Richard Sala is just the right choice to bring it to light with just a shade of good-natured menace.