colorful dreamer

Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by Holly Berry

Matisse grew up in a French town that was industrial and gray.  Despite this, he dreamed in bright colors.  He was a boy who did not do well in school, at music, or really at much of anything except dreaming.  Matisse decided to study law in Paris, but he discovered that being a law clerk was very dull, copying legal documents word for word by hand.  Due to the stress, Matisse ended up in a hospital bed for months.  It was there that he started painting to pass the time.  Now he had found exactly what he was good at.  It wasn’t easy, there were times he lacked food and money, but he worked very hard at his art.  Years later, Matisse found himself sick and in bed again in his old age.  He could no longer stand at an easel, so he turned to making cut-out collages, and those pieces turned out to be some of his most celebrated creations.

Parker vividly tells the story of a boy who grew up as a very unlikely artist.  From his colorless surroundings to the fact that he had never discovered his artistic gift, it is amazing that Matisse became what he was.  I appreciate particularly her celebration of the creative and the imaginative.  She also makes sure though that young readers know how much work it took for Matisse to reach success and that it did not come instantaneously.  It’s a book that speaks to everyone having a gift, but also the hard work it takes to achieve it.

Berry’s art plays black-and-white against brilliant color.  The gray world of Matisse’s youth is shown in intricate pencil illustrations, but pales against the radiant color of his dreams and his art.  As the pages turn, Matisse’s world becomes the same colors as the art he creates, demonstrating that he has finally found his place in the world as a whole.

Beautifully illustrated and written as an inspiration to young people looking for their own special place in the world, this is a very special look at a famous artist.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.