We read a gorgeous book today: "The Old Man Mad About Drawing," by Francois Place, translated by William Rodarmor (David Godine, 2004; you should look at Godine's list in general, as he prints very beautiful books: www.godine.com ). It's a profusely illustrated biography of the famous Japanese artist Hokusai; in the story (which takes place in 1850), he is 90 years old, and takes a young boy named Tojiro under his wing. Tojiro is an orphan who has been ill-treated by his guardian; his time with Hokusai changes the entire direction of his life.

It's essentially a picture book, but an unusually long one (106 pp), and it might be just the ticket for a young advanced reader who still enjoys having lots of illustrations along with the story. There's plenty to like here: the reader not only learns about Hokusai's life and art, but also about Japanese culture (for example, Shintoism and Buddhism, Kabuki theatre, Sumo wrestling, the samurai, etc.) and the craft of engraving and the business of publishing. Hokusai is a brilliantly inspirational example of someone who never stopped learning; he looks forward to being 100 or 110, by which time he will have advanced still further in his art.

Most of the (very lovely) art is by the author, but there are also several reproductions of Hokusai's work, which my children loved. Everyone scuttled off for drawing pens and paper after we read this story today, which I always view as a good sign.

Hope this will suit someone!