If Picasso Went To The Zoo


From the If Picasso series

An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.

In this children’s book, 50 teachers create works emulating their favorite artists, with a twist.

In this follow-up to If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree (2014), Gibbons has again asked art teachers (elementary level to high school) to contribute works that introduce artists to child readers through pastiche. This time, each image includes an animal whose name is alliterative with the artist’s: Picasso and polar bear, Harriet Powers and pelican, Alice Baber and bison. As that short lists shows, the artists chosen stray far beyond the usual suspects. Genres range from Renaissance to contemporary styles, with interesting results for the less representational works, such as a minimalist tarantula consisting of eight rectangular pillars striped with color. Other contributors solve this problem by including a realistic element among an abstract rendering: Jackson Pollock’s entry, for example, includes a recognizable pig among the drips and splashes. In addition, a key provides information on each animal’s endangerment status, and inter-curricular lesson extensions are available online. Gibbons, an artist and educator, writes a 10-line rhymed introduction for each work. The poem aims to give a sense of the artist’s style, each beginning “If [name] went to the zoo, / is this the kind of illustration she [or he] would do?” The rest of the verse gives some information about the artist and/or subject as well as the animal being depicted. Unfortunately, Gibbons’ lines are often padded with unnecessary words or meaningless phrases (for example, “it just feels so right”), making them less effective. Also, young readers are unlikely to catch allusions like “for more than 15, this man [Warhol] was a star.” The other difficulty with the author’s format is that his intended audience probably doesn’t know the originals, making the pastiche less effective. Wouldn’t the best way to introduce and honor artists be through their own pieces? And illustrators children might know, such as Beatrix Potter or Arthur Rackham, already include many animals in their works, making their possible zoo-inspired pictures not much of a leap. In others, like a charming Lichtenstein-inspired leopard, the zoo/artist concept succeeds.

 An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940290-42-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Firehouse Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2015



A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016



Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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