A warming look at two paragons of American modernism.
With spare, free-verse poems and whimsical, wonderfully upbeat illustrations, Robillard and Katstaller bring to young readers the enchanting story of American expats Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris. Robillard concentrates largely on Stein’s domestic life, describing how she and her brother Leo, then Alice, resided at 27 rue de Fleurus at the turn of the 20th century and famously collected paintings by Matisse, Cézanne, Gauguin, “the one and only Pablo Picasso,” and other masters, creating a salon for all kinds of visual and literary artists that would come to have a huge influence on modernism. Robillard writes: “Gertrude knew when a painting had something special to say. / Because she was Gertrude Stein. / Gertrude Stein, the genius.” While Robillard elides the romantic aspect of Stein’s relationship with “her partner, Alice”—and the fact that they were Jews living in World War II Paris—she takes great care to show how the intimacy of their partnership contributed to Stein’s mammoth literary output. Alongside Katstaller’s winningly childlike renderings of famous paintings and well-known portraits of Stein, Toklas, and their dog, Basket, Robillard includes quotes from Stein’s best-known works, offering a tantalizing introduction to her work while humanizing her ingenuity.
This accessible, kid-sized portrayal of Stein and Toklas’ famous relationship is a charmer. (timeline, sources, author’s note) (Picture book/biography/poetry. 6-9)