P. I. Maltbie, Author, Pau Estrada, Illustrator , illus. by Pau Estrada. Charlesbridge $15.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-57091-620-5

In her debut children's book, Maltbie playfully imagines the impact that the famed artist's cat has on his work. As the book opens, Pablo Picasso, depicted by Estrada (Button Soup ) as a boyish fellow, is in the midst of his Blue Period ("pictures of sad, blue people living in a cold, blue world"). Even the streets of Pablo's Montmartre unfold in gray-blue cobblestones and building exteriors. The artist's sole joy is his cat, Minou, a well-mannered feline concerned for his master's well-being. (" 'So, Minou, what do you think of my latest masterpiece?' Pablo asked. Minou was too polite to let his friend know what he really thought, so he meowed.") No one buys Pablo's somber paintings, and he refuses to take the advice of artist friends who encourage him to "paint something that sells, something happy." Unable to feed them both, Pablo sends Minou away. Scrounging for food, the feline comes upon a troupe of brightly clad acrobats, dancers and a resplendent, juggling harlequin. The performers give Minou a sausage, which he takes to Pablo, who becomes curious about its source, leading him to an abundance of new subjects. Soon Pablo enters a successful period of painting, thanks to the ministrations of his feline friend and politest critic. Estrada's illustrations in ink, gouache and watercolor highlight the influences that shaped Picasso's life and art. The witty and loyal cat serves as a charming vehicle for introducing Picasso to aspiring artists and budding art lovers. Ages 4-9. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-57091-648-9
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