The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse

by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived / in a dreary town in northern... read more

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived / in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray….” Influences on young Henri Matisse are cataloged in a lyrical narrative that builds anticipation as it describes objects and experiences visually enriching his world before concluding, “Would it be a surprise that you became / A fine painter who painted / Light / and / Movement / And the iridescence of birds?” Matisse’s mother pointedly brought color into his life with bright rugs and plates that she painted (he was allowed to mix the colors) and fruit and flowers that she brought home and let him arrange. She also taught him that the changing colors of the pigeons he raised was called iridescence. “I got my sense of color from my mother,” Matisse is quoted as saying, in the author’s note. Illustrations that are on the one hand unMatisse-like, with muted undertones, are surprisingly effective at conveying the importance of color and form in his life in this quietly striking picture book. (Ages 5–9)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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