Booklist starred (November 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 5))
Grades K-3. This inspiring picture book about the life of Henri Matisse weaves back and forth between Henri’s dreary reality—rendered in pencil shades of black, white, and gray—and the vivid world of his imagination, depicted in gorgeous full-color pencil, paint, and collage. Much to Henri’s parents’ dismay, their son does not excel at school, working in the family store, or the violin; instead, he is a dreamer. During his blah stint as a young lawyer, Henri starts to suffer stomach pains and ends up in the hospital, where he has plenty of time and nothing to do. But a set of paints changes all that: he picked up the paintbrush and was transported into paradise. From here, the book really sings as we’re treated to Henri’s vivid inner life made real on canvas. Parker’s lyrical text is accessible to young children and offers a rich look at the artist’s life, but it’s Berry’s art that wows. She manages to capture the vibrancy and rich saturation of Matisse’s original paintings and then changes styles to reflect his later-in-life colored-paper cutouts, which he referred to as drawing with scissors. An endnote fills in details about Matisse’s life. A great introduction to the renowned artist and a validation of dreamers everywhere.