Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
written by Jonah Winter; pictures by Kevin Hawkes
2012 (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library
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Mercurial is a word that I thought about after reading this fantastic picture book biography of Pablo Picasso. He was changeable and quick witted. He wasn't afraid to stretch his talents and not play it safe. In the beginning of the book, Pablo is pictured as bursting through a tranquil landscape painting like a football player through a banner. The point of the spread is that Pablo was going to challenge conventional thinking about painting with his attitude and talent. It is a brilliant visual idea by Jonah Winter and Kevin Hawkes. Young Pablo moved through different styles while showing his way above average painting ability. It was a rose-colored painting that caught the eye of a gallery owner. He asked for two hundred more similar paintings and this made Pablo a star. Bored with rose-colored paintings, he saw a display of African masks in a Paris museum. This inspired Pablo to create a new painting that is unlike the conventional ones of the time. When he displayed it, the "experts" hated the painting. They wanted him to go back to his more traditional paintings. Pablo didn't listen and decided to go even further down the path he chose. After he is told by his wife that his painting didn't make sense, he responded that he was living in a world that didn't make sense. Ignoring the pleas of the Paris art world, Pablo created Girl with a Mandolin which set him apart as a courageous artist who had ushered in the modern era with his original work in the cubist genre.
Just Behave, Pablo Picasso is not a simple retelling of a period in Pablo Picasso's life. Jonah Winter infuses this biography with a distinct voice that is refreshing for nonfiction. It's like he is sitting right next to you and having a vibrant conversation instead of simply giving a dry recitation of Picasso information. Children will connect with this style of storytelling and hopefully understand that they too have their own unique voices that can come out in their writing. Kevin Hawkes's pictures are spectacular. He captures Picasso's personality while introducing readers to Picasso's different styles.
This book is a great book to use to teach children to be themselves in their work and to not be afraid to try something different. It has received three starred reviews, so it will be on several Best of 2012 lists at the end of the year.
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