The Boy Who Bit Picasso by Antony Penrose

Cindy: Lynn found this delightful autobiography of a man who befriended Picasso as a child. The Boy Who Bit Picasso (Abrams 2011) obviously illuminated the great painter’s life, but in a unique way for a youth biography: looking at a famous figure from the perspective of someone who sat on his lap, visited his studio as a house guest, and, yes, one time even bit him! (Picasso nipped him back!) The book is filled with family photos, Picasso’s artwork and plenty of warm humor. I like the inclusion of a map showing Picasso’s birthplace in Spain, Picasso’s home in France and Penrose’s farm in England to give children the geographic placement.

Penrose, the son of American model and photographer mother Lee Miller and painter and writer Sir Roland Penrose still lives on Farley Farm where he grew up. You can read about his parents and their other famous farm house guests at the Farley Farm House website.

The title is sure to draw potential readers’ attention, just as it did Lynn when she saw it on display at our local public library.

Lynn: The focus group and I saw this book on display at our public library and one of the boys reached for it at the same time I did.  The title and book design really snagged our attention and that says a  lot as the library’s hugely popular turtle tank is close by!  This couldn’t be a better introduction to biographies for young readers.  Penrose has done a great job of writing at an accessible level and utilizing topics that will interest early fluent readers.  Picasso emerges as a very cool guy who did interesting things instead of just another never-heard-of person who was famous and lived a long time ago.  The information, photographs and reproductions of Picasso’s art are also well chosen and appropriate and the spacious book design is especially appealing.  The focus group and I read this together and it generated a lot of conversation about both Picasso and his art.  Now THAT is a successful biography!

Check out other NonFiction Monday books at Scope Notes.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "The Boy Who Bit Picasso by Antony Penrose"

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  1.' John Samuels says:

    Thanks for this review. Books inspiring children artistically are welcome and good for the classroom. It helps kids to relate personally to great art. A couple of others like it are The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West by Barbara Brenner, biography; Linnea in Monet’s Garden Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson; also, The Young Artist Thomas Locker, which is inspiring fiction with the same idea.

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