Monday, January 5, 2015

The Iridescence of Birds

The Iridescence of Birds
by Patricia MacLachlan; illus. by Hadley Hooper
40 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook, 2014

If you come to this book hoping to gain understanding of things ornithological, you might be disappointed because it's a biography of artist Henri Matisse told in two questions - one that spreads over the first 32 pages and the other quite short.

But you don't have to read the entire book in one breath. In fact, you'll want to take your time on each page as the story unfolds.

It begins: If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray...

If you were such a boy, and you wanted color and light, what would you do? In this portrait of words and art MacLachlan and Hooper bring Henri to life. Color begins to seep into the pages until, by the end of the story, the pages are as full of color as a Matisse painting.

This is the sort of book that makes your fingers itch with wanting to paint, or tack warm-colored tapestries on your walls. It will also have you taking a second look at those ubiquitous pigeons whose feathers and feet may have inspired Matisse.

The language is spare, the art simplified relief printing, the story inspiring. There's even back matter: author and illustrator notes, and a short list of books on Henri Matisse. Curious naturalists can learn more about iridescence and birds here at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and curious artists can check out Matisse's artwork here in his online galleries. You can even learn to paint like Matisse.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by publisher.


  1. This looks like such a lovely book! I love Ms MacLachlan!

  2. I really need to read more nonfiction. And with Patricia MacLachlan's way with words, it's not surprising that you found this beautiful.

  3. Matisse is one of my favorites, so I will definitely be on the look out for this title. Children can definitely relate to the bright colors of his works and they are inspired to create their own masterpieces :-)