cover image Meeting Cézanne

Meeting Cézanne

Michael Morpurgo, illus. by François Place. Candlewick, $15.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4896-1

In a story first published in 2006, Morpurgo (War Horse) takes advantage of the ever-popular setting and culture of Provence. Ten-year-old Yannick is sent from Paris to his uncle’s inn in the south of France so his mother can convalesce. He promptly falls for his beautiful but icy older cousin, Amandine, and starts helping out at the inn’s restaurant, where one of the regulars, “the most famous painter in the world,” often leaves an appreciative sketch on a paper tablecloth. When Yannick throws one into the fire, Amandine is livid. Adult readers will recognize Picasso’s iconic striped jersey and bald head, but Yannick does not. His mother had told him about the immortal Cézanne and his relationship with Provence, and the boy naturally assumes the artist in the restaurant is he. Only the most cultivated readers will understand Yannick’s charming mistake without some priming. Morpurgo’s habit of telling rather than showing (“She did not mince her words”) and the story’s thin characterizations keep this from top-drawer status, but fans, foodies, and Francophiles will be beguiled. Place’s relaxed pencil and watercolor paintings, meanwhile, certainly invoke the palette of Cézanne’s Provence. Ages 7–10. (Oct.)