Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Pablo Picasso was probably the most famous and most influential artist of the 20th century. His long and storied career encompassed not only painting, but also sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, poetry, photography, and set design. Many books for young people have been published on this great figure, including two in 2012: Picasso: I the King, Yo el rey, by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Caldecott-winning artist David Diaz (Amazon Children's Publishing, 2012), and Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Arthur A. Levine, 2012). A review of the latter title will appear in my blog tomorrow.
Many parents and even teachers don't always realize that picture books are not just for young children. Carmen T. Bernier-Grand's new biography in verse about Pablo Picasso is a perfect example. The author has written a number of biographies in verse (her most recent was on Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso), and that format that seems particularly appropriate for an artist like Picasso. Bernier-Grand does not white-wash Picasso's personality, and the tales of his womanizing and infidelities are clearly not suitable for young children. In her poem "Gold Crowns," she writes: "As paint is to brush, women are to Picasso's art." Moreover, the tragic events of his life are depicted, such as the early death of his beloved sister and the terrible bombing of Guernica that inspired one of Picasso's most famous paintings.
Instead, I would highly recommend this book for middle school, high school, and adults who'd like to explore Picasso's life and work in a beautifully illustrated, easy-to-read format. Because Picasso's life is told through free-verse poetry, much must be left out, but a narrative-style three page essay at the end of the book fills in many of the details, as does a comprehensive chronology of his life. Backmatter also includes a glossary, bibliography, and source notes. David Diaz is a perfect match for illustrating Picasso's life, and the pages seem to glow with deep colors. While his illustrations are representational (no cubist illustrations of Picasso's life!) they have an abstract, stylized quality about them, with a simplification of form that is typical in other books Diaz has illustrated. Photos of some of Picasso's most famous works such as Guernica and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon are included, integrated into the text.