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Monday, July 26, 2010

Paris in the Spring with Picasso, written by Joan Yolleck and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2010. $22.99 ages 5 up

"Every Saturday, no matter what the season, Gertrude and Leo hold a soiree, an evening party. Friends come for dinner and then, at around nine o'clock, the house is opened to anyone who might like to visit."

The author of this fascinating book draws her inpsiration for the story from the lives of some of the Parisians of the time: Pablo Picasso, Gertrude and Leo Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin. She focuses on events that may (or may not) have happened when friends were invited to an evening party at the home of the Steins. The evening is peopled with historical characters who spent time together, enjoying each other's company and sharing the news of the day. The evenings organized by Gertrude Stein were quite remarkable and often included many very famous people.

There is no designated narrator, but it may just be the cat who continually makes an appearance in Marjorie Priceman's wonderful artwork. That cat suits the goings-on and appears to play a part in almost every scene. We wander at leisure alongside, enjoying the many sights and sounds of Paris. As we do, we become privy to the lives of the characters as they live them. There is much excitement and anticipation as they prepare to attend the upcoming bash.

Marjorie Priceman allows us entry to Paris, prior to World War I, using an artistic style that was prevalent at the time. By doing so, she creates a believable and bright space for those anticipating attendance. There is lots of energy in her work, and she varies perspectives and pages to keep us interested in the action. Her recent trip to Paris is our great good luck, too. The many details create an atmosphere that matches the story's excited tone and does so with panache.

A final note refers to the main characters, adding information and stories from their lives. If readers are interested, they might just follow up on what has already been shared to see if they might discover more about each one.

This book is as charming as the city itself and might just have some readers wishing that they could make a quick visit!

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