Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse


An inspiring portrait of one of the world's most loved artists

There was once a boy named Henri, whose dreams were full of color even though his hometown was dreary and gray. His parents expected him to learn a trade when he grew up, but being a law clerk bored him, and he continued to dream of a colorful, exciting life, and of being noticed. Then Henri started painting . . . and kept painting and dreaming and working at his craft until he'd ...

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An inspiring portrait of one of the world's most loved artists

There was once a boy named Henri, whose dreams were full of color even though his hometown was dreary and gray. His parents expected him to learn a trade when he grew up, but being a law clerk bored him, and he continued to dream of a colorful, exciting life, and of being noticed. Then Henri started painting . . . and kept painting and dreaming and working at his craft until he'd become one of the most admired and famous artists in the world.

This lyrical, visually rich picture book is more than an excellent biography; at its core, this remarkable book is an encouragement to never give up on your dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
Parker invokes Matisse's emblematic prints and vivid contrasts. What's more, she captures his energy and enthusiasm.
Publishers Weekly
For a boy whose "dreams were full of color," life in Henri Matisse's industrial village is bleak. Young Henri is a source of anxiety for his hardworking parents, who fear he will never make a living; his departure for Paris to study law comes as a relief. Berry (Woof: A Love Story) ties her mixed-media artwork to Matisse's growth and eventual embrace of art. Scenes of Matisse's upbringing and dreary work as a law clerk are drawn in pencil, but when he begins painting, his life transforms. "The moment Henri opened that box, he knew. The colors! This was what he had been dreaming of," writes Parker (When Dads Don't Grow Up). Berry then fills her spreads with vibrant acrylic paintings and collage artwork, integrating flamboyant patterns and tropical motifs that echo the work that Matisse tirelessly creates ("He worked as hard as any artist ever had. He worked until the very day he died"). Readers whose talents stray from the conventional should welcome this joyful affirmation of creative expression. Ages 3–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
As a child Henri was a dreamer. He did not do well at school. He did not want to take over his parent's store. He wanted to be noticed. After he left home he tried to be a law clerk but ended up sick in bed in a hospital. There he saw that the man in the bed next to his enjoyed painting. He asked his mother to bring him paints, and he was "transported to paradise." He painted before and after work. He excelled at art school. He struggled to support his family but went on painting while visiting many countries. He painted goldfish, birds, flowers, and fabrics. Finally people noticed his paintings. When he was old and in bed, he made cut-out collages. He worked until he died at eighty-four. By then, the whole world had noticed him. Drab pencil drawings in the beginning pages give way to colorful Matisse like paintings and then to bright cutouts. A note at the back gives further information. Children will enjoy this biography of a famous artist with its fanciful illustrations. Matisse overcame difficulties to be true to his dream. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—This picture-book biography covers Matisse's entire life but focuses on his career aspirations and achievements. The straightforward text takes a lighthearted approach by including details such as young Henri's dream of becoming a magician and his skill with a peashooter. Berry's illustrations are the star of the show; dignified black-and-white drawings represent the artist's dull youth and colorful paintings are introduced when his career takes off. The style of the artwork evokes Matisse more and more as the story progresses, ending, as his career did, with paper cut-out collage. While his life story is not particularly adventurous or exciting, young readers will be drawn in by the obvious affection the author and illustrator feel for their subject. There is not enough detail for reports, but the book may spark interest that can be followed up by further research. A must for art teachers, and a nice addition to history and biography collections.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Matisse's genius was that he never stopped exploring, even as he honored his intense childhood dreams of creativity, color and art. Parker's text is a pitch-perfect and appealing narrative, but the real star here is Berry's art. She first offers careful, almost tight, school-notebooklike drawings of French cities and interiors that effectively convey the gray and noncreative aspects of Matisse's childhood, relieved only by his colorful daydreams. After leaving his small town and working as a law clerk in Paris, Henri was freed from the prison of social convention through his mother's simple gift of a paint box (to pass the time while convalescing from a serious illness). He then exuberantly embraced his life as an artist. Berry seamlessly infuses each successive spread with waves of the characteristically intense, almost excessively vivid, explosive color of the Fauves' palette. She ingeniously incorporates much of Matisse's now-iconic imagery (goldfish, Mediterranean rugs, busy fabrics, Tahitian jungle palm fronds, lemons, leaves, strong geometric shapes, stars and much more). Parker and Berry finally combine to movingly present the methods, meaning and passion that propelled Matisse's later work--simple cutouts in bright monochromatic papers. This inspiring and accessible picture book serves as a brilliant introduction to one artist's vitality. The message? Like Matisse, we must never stop creating and experimenting. (author's note, list of museums with Matisse artwork) (Picture book/biography. 3-5)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803737587
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/8/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 391,222
  • Age range: 3 - 5 Years
  • Lexile: 600L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Blain Parker lives in Denver, Colorado.

Holly Berry lives in Waldoboro, Maine.

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