Woolf's approach in this introduction to art-direct and logical, rather than intuitive and passionate—gives her volume an unfortunately dry, encyclopedic tone. She also overestimates her stated audience: Few 8-year-olds will have the patience to deal with such words as "commissioned" and "medium."
Such terms, however, arc faithfully explained in a glossary, and middle I school students (probably the best age group for the book) as well as younger readers will delight in the imaginative choice of paintings. To show how different artists approach the same subject, for example, Woolf, former education officer at London's National Gallery, offers two versions of Shakespeare's drowned Ophelia—Millais's eerily realistic Pre-Raphaelite 1852 version and Redon's dreamy ca. 1905 evocation, "Ophelia Among the Flowers." Here and throughout, descriptions of technique are clear and precise. (Doubleday, $14.95)