cover image When Pigasso Met Mootisse

When Pigasso Met Mootisse

Nina Laden. Chronicle Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1121-7

Verbal and visual puns fill Laden's (The Night I Followed the Dog) sly homage to Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who are keenly caricatured as a prima-donna pig and a feisty bull. Pigasso is a dark-eyed hog in a red beret; his facial features rearrange according to his mood, and bruisy hues of blue and purple shadow his yellow-pink complexion. His painting of female pigs--a crafty version of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon--causes an art-world sensation. A canvas by Mootisse, a sophisticated orange bull with a neat brown beard and red-framed spectacles, featuring five graceful, nude cows--The Dance with udders--is hailed as a ""Moosterpiece."" After urban success, Pigasso and Mootisse move into country homes on either side of an ochre-dirt road. Pigasso's landscape features a tart-yellow house, angular shrubbery and a sharp-edged apple tree bearing cut-open fruit. Mootisse's farm offers a curvy tree, a patchwork garden of cutout leaf-shapes, and a construction-paper-smooth lawn that complements the red house. The artists at first share baguettes and bottles of wine, and make gifts of their paintings, but their friendship erodes as they snipe at each other's styles. Laden lightly satirizes the duo as ""pig-headed and bull-headed,"" respectively, then lets them admit grudging admiration. She cites cubist and fauvist philosophies (Pigasso calls his rival a ""wild beast""), and she mimics the real painters' techniques, so that Pigasso favors hard black outlines and Mootisse prefers brilliant side-by-side shades. While junior art historians familiar with the artists' work will laugh loudest, an afterword offers novices the background for this well-observed comedy. Ages 4-10. (Sept.)