The drama of the artist’s fulfillment of his creative desires through this direct medium is somewhat undercut by the paucity...

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MR. MATISSE AND HIS CUTOUTS

The story of the legendary painter’s adoption of paper cutouts as an expressive medium after illness made traditional painting physically impossible is told here through lively pen-and-watercolor sketches.

Nuanced modulation of color, brilliant hues to monochrome and back again, is skillfully implemented. After bright, watercolor scenes of him at work, an almost colorless spread depicts Matisse in his hospital bed. “There’s no color in here. You’d think I was dead. What a nightmare! Fetch my brushes! Fetch my paints!” exclaims the painter. Successive spreads show him generating color as he creates, reinforcing the fact that it was the artist’s desire to embellish and enhance his surroundings that inspired his innovative use of cut paper. His process of creating the cutouts and directing the positioning of them on the walls of his room is well-portrayed, leading up to the revelation that “I’ve made myself a garden to live in, a whole new life.” Like the snail he depicts, the painter slowly rolls in his wheelchair through the oasis he has created against all obstacles. The one obstacle to making this book truly successful is the limited selection of cutouts actually shown, either as copies or reproductions of Matisse originals; there’s no Jazz, no Swimming Pool.

The drama of the artist’s fulfillment of his creative desires through this direct medium is somewhat undercut by the paucity of the visual elements. (biographical note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4263-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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