All the great artists were there at the Paris grand contest: Gaston du Stroganoff showed The King on His Throne, Felicien Caffay Ollay had The King on Horseback, and Alphonse LeCamembair proudly exhibited The King in Armor.
And humble little Clousseau? His painting was of a lowly duck. Everyone sneered and held their noses. Then the duck quacked.
The Incredible Painting became an instant classic when it was first published in 1988, winning awards from the American Library Association and Horn Book magazine. It's a brilliantly funny satire of the sycophantic fakery of the art world and a sly tribute to the explosive, unpredictable powers of real art. What makes it a classic is that it's funny on every level. The very youngest readers will love the obvious slapstick jokes: Clousseau's come-alive paintings first make him famous, then cause chaos when his painted volcanoes erupt and waterfalls flood rooms.
Older readers will love the punny names and the swift, economical narrative. And everyone will adore the bold, richly colored pictures with their vivid evocation of 19th-century Paris. The surprise ending is so inspired and witty that it starts whole new possibilities ticking in the imagination. A+