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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! Written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Scholastic, 2012. $20.99 ages 6 and up

"The day arrives. The painting is unveiled. It's different from any other painting in the world - the faces and bodies don't even look real. They look like African masks."

You can feel the intensity of the artist as you move from the opening illustration to the title page. The calm demeanor and subdued colors as he stands at his easel changes dramatically with the turn of the page. Now, we are up close and personal with an intense, ruddy-cheeked and vividly dressed young man. That change is reflected as the story begins...from 'a peaceful, lovely landscape painting' to Pablo bursting right through the page on the very next morning....always ready to try something new!

What a great start to a story that will give readers a meaningful look at this brilliant artist, whose art was often misunderstood and under appreciated. He is very young when he begins, full of energy and talent and eager to learn more. Jonah Winter takes us through each of the periods in Picasso's artistic development. Each turn of the page shows a young man who marches to his own drummer, creating images that have meaning for him.

Picasso takes inspiration from the world around him and his ever-changing setting. When he first sees African masks, he is inspired to try something he has not done in any of his previous 'periods.
Art collectors and critics are up in arms, and quick to voice their complaints. Pablo is mad! He will paint as he sees fit and hang the rest of them. He will paint what he wants to paint! He feels that his art reflects the times he is living in:

"And sure enough, much of the world around Pablo doesn't make sense. Everything is changing all the time. New things are being invented: cars, airplanes, telephones, bombs."

This picture book biography does not give its readers many details about Picasso's life; rather, it focuses on his art, his always evolving style and the strength of character it took to make the art he wanted to make. He didn't paint to earn a living. He painted what inspired his thinking, his view of the world he was living in and introduced a totally new artistic style to that world.

Kevin Hawkes matches Jonah Winter's words with images that are vivid and boldly colored. They show an artist in touch with his muse, despite what others would say. He creates an authentic time and place for the events described and even reproduces a few of Picasso's most familiar works. I like the changing perspectives that give added power to Picasso's character. The drama in Hawkes' artwork is equal to the drama of the text.

The audience for this book is sure to be engaged at all times by a man who is said to be the 'first modern artist'. An author's note explains that 'cubism' was not a style unique to the artist. He worked with a friend, Georges Braque, who influenced that work. His legacy is lasting, as was his persistence to be the artist he wanted to be:

"What's amazing is that he kept coming up with new styles, new ways of seeing, all the way to the end of his life...even as an old man, he had the energy, the enthusiasm, and the curiosity of a young child."

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