When Pigasso Met Mootisse

40 pages,
ISBN: 0811811212

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Children`s Books
by Jonathan Rollins

It's never too early to introduce children to twentieth-century art; either they'll appreciate the use of colour and the economy of line or else they'll try to put it in their mouth. In either case, you know it's caught their eye. Of course, there are a number of avenues of introduction: you can read obfuscatory art criticism to them at bedtime (perhaps not the wisest approach); you can take them to the nearest museum of fine art and show them what Robert Hughes et al. are talking about (much more fun than reading art criticism); or you can pick up Nina Laden's When Pigasso Met Mootisse and introduce them to such canonical "moosterpieces" as Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and "Guernica" and Matisse's "La Danse" and Jazz series rendered with a farm animal motif. There's even a cow odalisque! This last option is still more fun than reading art criticism and yet much easier than packing the kids off to the gallery.

I chose door number three and read Laden's new book to my children. While my one-year-old daughter did try to put the book in her mouth (maybe one is starting a bit too early), my three-year-old son was delighted. He had absolutely no idea who Picasso and Matisse were but Laden's book has opened the worlds of cubism and fauvism to him. Looking at one of her illustrations of Pigasso's garden, he pointed at the cubist apple tree and said, "Those apples are broken!" While Laden's intended audience is most likely a little older than my son, the large-format, colourful pages will appeal to younger children and will likely provoke an impromptu narrative from them. After a few pages of me reading to my son while he listened, I found we had switched roles with him telling me the story of what he saw on the page, while I listened.

For those who stick to the text, Laden's book tells the story of how two famous painters (a pig and a bull) become neighbours. Soon, Pigasso and Mootisse are trading insults-"You paint like a two-year-old!" and "You paint like a wild beast!" Eventually their rivalry leads them to build a fence between their houses. However, both realize the value of their friendship and in an act of reconciliation, each artist paints his own side of the fence. The result is yet another parody of a famous painting. In an interesting, two-page epilogue, Laden tells the true story of how Picasso and Matisse met, making her book both fun and educational!

If the sign of a good children's book is that your child wants to read it over and over again, then When Pigasso Met Mootisse is indeed an excellent choice for your child's collection. One can only hope that Laden follows up this book with another-perhaps When Andy Warthog Met Jackson Puddleduck? 

Jonathan Rollins is a husband, father, and graduate student at the University of Toronto's Centre for Comparative Literature who knows a good children's book when he sees one (`cause he's seen just about all of them).


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