The Boy Who Bit Picasso

Antony Penrose. Abrams, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8109-9728-8
Perhaps the only thing more surprising than this book's title—which refers to when the author, as a boy, bit the world-famous artist—is Picasso's response. "Picasso turned around and bit me right back—hard!" That anecdote sums up the (successful) goal of the book: to humanize the man who left behind "nearly 2,000 paintings, more than 7,000 drawings, [and] well over 1,000 sculptures" when he died. Penrose, the son of painter Sir Roland Penrose and photographer Lee Miller, grew up in England with frequent visits from Picasso, a family friend. Writing as an adult in a childlike first-person voice (which hits a few strange notes, but is age-appropriate and accessible), Penrose describes time spent with Picasso, his children, and other members of his circle; numerous b&w photographs appear, along with original drawings by contemporary children. Reproductions of Picasso's works demonstrate the influence Penrose's family had on Picasso's art, perhaps most striking in an abstract portrait of Miller, which is paired with a photograph of her—her profile identical in both. It's a fascinating and highly personal vision of the artist. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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