Henri Rousseau has been one of my favorite painters for a long time so I was glad to see Mike Venezia finally got around to doing this book for his Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series. Ironically, although Venezia includes seventeen Rousseau paintings in this book (which may well be a record for this particular series), my favorite is not included. Go figure. Venezia provides a basic biography of Rousseau, who always wanted to be a famous artist even though he never went to art school. Consequently it makes sense that Rousseau would be perhaps best known for his jungle paintings despite the fact he never traveled to any jungles, just to the Jardin des Plantes, a huge greenhouse filled with plants and trees from all over the world. Rousseau tended to put he mysterious and faraway lands he dreamed about into his paintings and most of his best work exhibits a compelling quirkiness, such as "The Merry Jesters," which shows monkeys playing in a jungle with a back scratcher and a milk bottle or "Tropical Landscape--An American Indian Struggling with an Ape," which shows an American Indian struggling with an ape in a tropical landscape. His most famous painting, "The Sleeping Gypsy," shows a strange meeting between a curious lion and a sleeping musician on a moonlit night. No wonder I always found Rousseau's work compelling. This particular Venezia volume gets high marks for including so many examples of Rousseau's work, along with key paintings by some of his contemporaries, who turned out to be much bigger supporters of his work than the public at large. Usually I like to see more specifics on the artist's work, because reading these books this year is a key part of my do-it-yourself art appreciation course. However, to be fair, once you cover Rousseau's use of strange images and multiple shades of green in all those jungle paintings, there is not much left to say in that regard. I was also happy to see that this time around some of the paintings reproduced were almost as big as Venezia's original cartoons depicting the artist's life. This series features great artists from Sandro Botticelli to Grant Wood, and every time I think I have almost read them all I discover another half-dozen or more I need to track down. Certainly there are other art books and other series that can provide more insights into these great artists, but Venezia does a fine job of introducing young readers to their lives and works.