Weaving an Inspiring Tale

By Ronna Mandel

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The story of the weavers of the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris comes to life through the fictional tale of a young girl. IMAGE COURTESY GETTY PUBLICATIONS

Whether or not you make it over to The Getty Center for the “Woven Gold” exhibit showcasing the tapestries of French King Louis XIV, your family can enjoy a fun window into the world of the weavers thanks to “Thérèse Makes a Tapestry,” written by Alexandra S.D. Hinrichs, illustrated by Renée Graef and published by Getty Publications.

Best for ages 6 and up, the book tells the story of Thérèse, a young girl whose whole family works at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris, where tapestries were designed and woven to decorate the palaces of Louis XIV. In 17th century France, weavers were men, and women laboring alongside them could only be assistants, but Thérèse has greater aspirations.

Thérèse’s father and brother Henri make the paintings used by weavers to create their tapestries. Her brother Mathieu works as a weaver, while Thérèse and her mother wind yarn onto spools the weavers use.

Thérèse’s father, like a modern-day photojournalist, follows the king and documents battle scenes, palaces and nature in paintings that serve as models for royal tapestries. Motivated by news that after her father’s next journey, the Sun King himself will visit the Gobelins, Thérèse decides to weave a tapestry on her family’s small loom as a gift for her father upon his return. Most importantly, she plans to use one of his paintings for the design. However, to accomplish this ambitious undertaking, Thérèse needs to convince the Gobelins’ many talented artisans – including Henri – to help her.

This picture book seamlessly blends factual and fictional information into an engaging narrative. Thérèse’s story is inspired by real tapestries, real people and a real place, and Hinrichs has done her homework, researching the workings of the Gobelins Manufactory and the lives of the people whose work we still marvel at today. The book includes a glossary, French words and phrases and fascinating facts about the history of tapestry making.

– Ronna Mandel

Find more reviews of children’s books on the “Good Reads With Ronna” blog at www.goodreadswithronna.com.

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