The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

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by Jon Agee. Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades PreK-5.
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Teacher's Guide

cover art

The text here is spare with the strong illustrations delivering most of the story. Agee uses rich, dark colors and bold black line to draw us into the drama. The humor, the intriguing story and the great illustrations made this book an instant classic when it came out.

When an unknown artist, Felix Clousseau, enters the exhibition at the Royal Palace in Paris, art patrons are unimpressed. When he sets up his very plain painting of a duck, they are horrified. When the duck comes to life, Felix's career is launched.

People are awed by his work and he experiences meteoric success until some of his paintings-come-to-life cause serious problems which land Felix in jail. All seems hopeless until a dog in one of his paintings catches a thief and Felix is pardoned.

At this point he received a medal of honor and "returned to his painting." In the final spread we see the double meaning as he walks away into a painting. The scene in the painting is the same as the scene where we first see Clousseau walking toward us.

This pun-filled satirical work tells of the artist's dilemma when faced with commercial success. It is a sophisticated spoof for all ages of the art world and of human nature.


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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • Felix's painting of a duck is judged as outrageous. How do people judge art? What qualities are they looking for? Do different people look for different things?

  • What do the judges in the book seem to be looking for?

  • What are the pitfalls for an artist in becoming successful? What does the author seem to say about it? Do you agree?

  • Why did Felix step into the painting?

  • The painting he enters looks familiar. Where have we seen it before?

  • Will Felix ever come out of the painting? Where do you think he went?
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Activities

  • Find other tales in which something painted or drawn becomes real: Harold and the Purple Crayon, for instance.

  • Tell the story as if you were one of the other artists at the exhibition.

  • Find other books of idioms. The Amelia Bedelia stories are full of them.

  • Put up a display of art prints. If paintings could come to life, which painting would you like to have come alive?

  • Which painting would you like to step into? Imagine yourself doing just that. What would you see as you step deeper into it? How would your perspective change? What about the size of objects in the painting as you neared them? Draw the painting as seen from the inside.

  • Write about your experience inside the painting.

  • Which paintings are most lifelike already?

  • Paint a picture you'd like to have come alive.

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