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Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan…
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Paris in the Spring with Picasso

by Joan Yolleck

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Here's the thing about this book: it doesn't make much sense. I mean, I get it--we're following a cat through the streets of Paris, getting glimpses of different people who are getting ready to go to a party at Gertrude Stein's house. But, there are just too many problems. The title has little to do with the book; Picasso is just one of the array of people mentioned in the book. The story is kind of all over the place. It's not very cohesive. I understand that the author was trying to move us smoothly from one place and character to the next, but I don't think she achieved her goal very well. The story is rife with interruptions from our feline narrator, who sometimes speaks in French, sometimes in English, and sometimes repeats herself in both languages. There's little consistency.

Also, as a personal pet peeve, Alice B. Toklas is referred to as Stein's "best friend." Come on, let's call it like it is. They were girlfriends, life partners, lovers, lesbians, a couple that were denied basic legal rights as a couple... not "best friends." I think you need to be honest with kids about this kind of stuff and not try to gloss over it.

As an adult, it piqued my interest in reading more about some of the characters mentioned. But, I just don't think kids would respond very well to it.

On a positive note, I love the illustrations (watercolor and marker), and the book really made me want to read more about Stein, Toklas, Max Jacob, and Guillaume Apollinaire! ( )
  amyolivia | Oct 25, 2013 |
Not really sure of the point of this book. Are their picture book readers who are interested in Gertrude Stein and can follow a very confusing narrative? The story didn't work for me.
The illustrations are very nice, but in a few places they reminded me too much of the Bemelman's Madeline illustrations of Paris. ( )
  alyson | Aug 29, 2013 |
Both Joan Yolleck's narrative and Marjorie Priceman's illustrations give a wonderful feel, an authentic-seeming description and demonstration of the joie de vivre, the artistic energy of early 20th century Paris (I can certainly understand why so many authors and artists, like Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, flocked there); text and images capture the movement, the lively frenzy of the city. While I did quite enjoy both the text and the illustrations, I must admit that I actually somewhat prefer the illustrations. Priceman's illustrations are bold and bright, and perfectly capture the energy, the artistic sentiment of early 20th century Paris. To me, the illustrations are reminiscent of the colours, the movement, the energy, the very feel of expressionism and surrealism; they completely and utterly evoke Paris, the artistic mecca that was Paris.

There is much textual information presented in Paris in the Spring with Picasso, so many details in fact, that unfortunately, the flow of the narrative is at times rather confusing and disjointed. I know that I became somewhat distracted while reading, and I wonder if that might also be the case for children reading or listening to the text (I would definitely consider this book more suitable for older children, it is a bit too complicated and textually dense for reading with and to very young children).

I also have to wonder why the author did not include a French/English glossary for the French words and expressions used. Yolleck did include excellent and informative biographical notes at the end of the book, so it would have been easy and reasonable to have also included a glossary. True, most of the French words and expressions are easy enough to fathom from the context of the narrative, but I actually had to look up one of the French words used in a dictionary, the word zinzolin. From the textual representation, I was quite positive that zinzolin likely describes a type of colour (which it does), but I wanted to be sure of my assumptions. Now having to look up a few words in a dictionary is generally not a major issue for me. However, for some readers (especially children), having to look up words in a dictionary is or can be frustrating and distracting (and not everyone will be able to guess the French expressions and words used just from context alone).

On a more personal level, I really wish that the author had not simply described Alice B. Toklas as Gertrude Stein's "best friend." The two were a couple, and the text clearly demonstrates this. In this day and age, we should be enlightened enough and brave enough to consider Alice B. Toklas as Gertrude Stein's partner, as her spouse. In my opinion, describing Alice B. Toklas as Gertrude Stein's best friend not only somewhat trivialises their relationship, it also gives a false or a potentially false image of their relationship to children reading this book.

I would recommend Paris in the Spring with Picasso for older children (from about ages six to ten) interested in the art and artists of the early 20th century. I also think that this is a book that many adults would very likely appreciate, and my minor criticisms notwithstanding, I really did enjoy both text and illustrations. ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book takes you through the streets of Paris to a party, but back tracks to introduce the reader to each of the people attending the party including Picasso himself. Each character is a little bit strange and creative. The author also incorporates French into the story in a way that allows the reader to use context to understand it. It also includes more information about all of the people who were characters in the story. ( )
  corinnalogsdon | Jan 31, 2013 |
This book was not a book I would enjoy reading to my children or students. I can't appreciate the art in the illustrations, I wish I could, but they even made me dizzy. It was an informational book about Picasso and others and just didn't interest me. I wish I would have liked this book. ( )
  brikayama | May 12, 2012 |
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Describes how some of Paris's famous artists and writers, such as Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and Guillaume Apollinaire, spend their day before preparing to attend a party at Gertrude Stein's apartment.

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