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Sonderbooks Book Review of

Colorful Dreamer

The Story of Artist Henri Matisse

by Marjorie Blain Parker

illustrated by Holly Berry


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Colorful Dreamer
The Story of Artist Henri Matisse

by Marjorie Blain Parker
illustrated by Holly Berry
Review posted May 13, 2013.
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Artists make ideal subjects for picture book biographies, and Colorful Dreamer makes the most of the form.

The story of Henri Matisse's life is simplified, suitable for very young readers. It opens with Henri living in a black-and-white world, but dreaming in color. Here's an example of a page that shows the fanciful approach the author took (yet conveying the facts):

It certainly wasn't the life Henri had dreamed about. Law clerks, he discovered, spent long days copying legal documents, word-for-word-for-word. When he couldn't stand the boredom for another second, Henri amused himself with his peashooter. Soon, he was an excellent shot!

Growing a beard and wearing a top hat didn't help. Though he looked like a law clerk, Henri couldn't bear the possibility of such an existence. Just thinking about it tied his stomach in knots. And this time Henri ended up in bed for months -- in a hospital.

After Henri discovered painting, the pictures change to wildly colorful pictures, and reflect the different artistic periods of his life, culminating in cut-paper collages.

A page of notes at the back gives older readers avenues to pursue to find out more. The book itself is a wonderful introduction to the artist for young children. A lot of picture book biographies focus on the subject's childhoold. Since Matisse didn't discover painting until he was twenty, this author decided to focus on his misfit childhood and his colorful dreams. The illustrator carries out her vision beautifully. This book gives the information but also entertains and inspires.