Paris in the Spring with Picasso

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This evocative portrait of the artists that made Paris tick in the early 20th century is a perfect introduction to the world of contemporary art and literature . . . and to Paris!

On any day of the week, if you cross Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens, you will come to a cobbled street called rue de Fleurus. Follow it to number 27, and you will arrive at Gertrude Stein’s home. Inside, she and her friend Alice B. Toklas are getting ready for their soiree with Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, ...

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This evocative portrait of the artists that made Paris tick in the early 20th century is a perfect introduction to the world of contemporary art and literature . . . and to Paris!

On any day of the week, if you cross Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens, you will come to a cobbled street called rue de Fleurus. Follow it to number 27, and you will arrive at Gertrude Stein’s home. Inside, she and her friend Alice B. Toklas are getting ready for their soiree with Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and some other friends. While they are tidying, Pablo is at his easel, working on a painting. His brilliant black eyes never leave the canvas. And what is Max doing? Well, he is completely absorbed in a poem he is writing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 8, 2010

Starred Review, Booklist, April 1, 2010

San Francisco Book Review, May 2010

Instructor Magazine, May/June 2010

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Yolleck takes us to Paris for a charming, imaginary soiree at Gertrude Stein's in the early twentieth century. The characters we meet are all real, however, and we see them first early in an ordinary day. The poet Guillaume Apollinaire is distracted from writing a poem by the visit of Marie Laurencin, bringing sketches of him and friends. Up the hill lives Max Jacob with Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Fernande upstairs. Max has written a rhymed couplet; Picasso is painting. As the sun sets over Notre Dame Cathedral, we follow the friends past a circus and a cabaret. At Gertrude's, her friend Alice B. Toklas is preparing for the soiree. The friends arrive for an evening of talking, laughing, and enjoying the arts. There is looseness to the gouache-and-ink illustrations reminiscent of Bemelmann's Paris, a lively place filled with recognizable landmarks, active artists, and intense colors splashed across, around, and even up and down the pages. There are occasional French words to spice the breezy text. Priceman has included interpretations of two Picasso paintings. There are also added notes about the important characters introduced. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Publishers Weekly
Debut author Yolleck introduces Gertrude Stein and her coterie—Picasso, Max Jacobs, Apollinaire (plus assorted girlfriends)—spicing her account with gossip and asides (“Pardonnez-moi, excuse me. I must interrupt for just a moment to tell you that these sketches are of Apollinaire and their friends Pablo and Fernande”). Apollinaire watches an acrobat and gets an idea for a poem, Max Jacob writes comic verse, Gertrude chats with Alice B. Toklas; the evening soirée that the narrative takes as its focus isn’t as important as the ordinary ways these extraordinary artists spend their days. The exuberant spreads by Priceman (How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.), scratched and scrabbled in ink and splashed with scarlets, yellows, and blues, showcase the streets of Paris with thoroughly Gallic charm. In his studio, Picasso squeezes black oil paint onto his palette while, across town, Stein passes the hours before her party curled up in an armchair, reading. Intelligently written and illustrated with élan, it’s the next step up for Francophile children who have graduated from Babar and Madeline. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—In her debut picture book, Yolleck explores what it might have been like to be in Gertrude Stein's social circle in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The story focuses on the ordinary activities of a few of Stein's contemporaries, leading up to one of the weekly soirées for which 27 rue de Fleurus is remembered. Readers can take a stroll with Guillaume Apollinaire, or visit Max Jacob at his apartment in the building he called Bateau-lavoir. Or they can observe Picasso as he paints his famous Two Nudes, and spend some time with Stein and Alice B. Toklas before their guests arrive. The story concludes by inviting readers to imagine what everyone would have talked about at the gathering. Priceman's brightly colored illustrations exhibit energy, creativity, and general joie de vivre. A brief introduction explains the author's inspiration and a little about the people featured in the story. This whirlwind tour flows easily thanks to clear writing and carefully chosen details. However, this fly-on-the-wall fantasy lacks kid appeal.—Lisa Glasscock, Columbine Public Library, Littleton, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Yolleck's admiration for a group of early-20th-century artists and friends spurred her to imagine a typical soiree hosted by Gertrude Stein. A prowling black cat purrs to readers, "On any day of the week, if you cross Paris's Luxembourg Garden going west, you will come to a cobbled street called rue de Fleurus." Readers are given a glimpse into each guest's day leading up to the evening's party. Guillaume Appollinaire crafts a new poem inspired by a street acrobat, Max Jacob works out a poem based on a dream and Pablo Picasso continues with his all-night creation of a painting of two women ("Two Nudes"). Priceman's sweeping gouache-and-ink paintings brilliantly evoke the atmosphere of a bohemian city and imbue each scene with a sense of magic and movement. The courteous cat's narration, punctuated with the occasional French phrase, suits the gently surreal mood. But the lengthy story itself, featuring as it does historical characters of whom the audience will know little (thumbnail bios at the beginning will provide some context), seems too ephemeral to make much lasting impression. Undeniably well done, this book will have trouble finding the right readers. (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375837562
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 458,502
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.98 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Yolleck reviews children’s books for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. This is her first children’s book. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Marjorie Priceman is a two-time recipient of a Caldecott Honor award—for Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! and Hot Air. She is also the author-illustrator of How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A., as well as How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. A
graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Champagne served rather flat

    The flap copy on this gorgeous book explains that the author has "long been intrigued by the idea of telling children a story about Gertrude Stein and her friends in Paris on the day of a soiree." Okaaaay. Kind of a quirky thing to be intrigued by but let's look inside where we find a vividly illustrated (I love Priceman's work. Period.), sprightly written (fictional) account of one day in the life of Stein, her lifelong companion, Alice B. Toklas, Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire and other artists at work and play in early 20th Century Paris. I guess this could work as an introduction to these leading lights of art and literature (or to Paris itself) but as a story it does not succeed. It's a delightful roundup of quotidian details about people most children won't know with no foothold in the text with which a child could gain purchase. Occasional French phrases will make this fun to read aloud but for a French-inflected storytime, I'm afraid I would stick with Madeline or Barbara McClintock's fabulous Adele and Simon.

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