“It was a modern art mess” yells my son, and I smile every time.

We found this book one lucky day in the library.  We took it home and it was an instant hit.  We renewed it.  Then sadly, we returned it.  But since we go to the library almost weekly, we checked it out again in a couple of weeks.  This trend continued for months, enjoyably, until one day I somewhat impulsively bought it.  And now we own a work of art.

I swear I don’t like this book because I want to raise an art snob.  I am definitely not an art snob.  My husband makes fun of my short attention span in art museums.  But this book is about pigs, cows, friendship, arguments, painting, being different, making up after being different, and yes, Picasso and Matisse.

This book makes up for everything you hear about schools cutting art programs even though an appreciation of the arts can help students think critically in life and in other subjects (those deemed “more important” by whoever writes those blasted standardized tests).  It also makes up for everything you’ve heard recently about picture books dying.  Because here’s the deal.  The language is rich.  The puns are numerous.  The words are big, at least some of them, and your kid is learning about Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.  So break out the picture books!

Title: When Pigasso met Mootisse
Author: Nina Laden
Genre
: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

The art in this book is amazing, as really it has to be.  Half of the picture evoke the style of Picasso and half of Matisse.  My husband (remember, the guy I haven’t yet said is an art snob) was looking over our shoulder at one picture when we first got this book and said “Hey, that’s a Matisse!”  My son looked confused and I had to explain, that no, it was a Mootisse.  So there you go.

Pigasso and Mootisse grow up different from the other pigs and cows.  They like to paint.  But they are discovered and become famous.  When they each get sick of the fame, they buy farms in the country where no one will bother them.  But their houses face each other across the street, and what starts as a great friendship erupts into a feud over misunderstood painting styles.  The battle is colorful and messy.  But the artistic mammals miss each other and make up in a most beautiful way.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this book is worth millions.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

My favorite part of the book comes every time in one of the pages where the battle between the friends is erupting.  Paint is flying everywhere.  There is a lot of text on the page before, but an essential page break before the last line of the scene, which gets one page all to itself: “It was a modern art mess!”  I love this page because my son loves it, and every time we get there, I don’t have to read it, he reads it for me.  This is a great tactic to use anytime you are reading with your kids.  Once a book becomes familiar, try leaving out the last word in sentence.   Especially if it rhymes, they are likely to remember.  By participating, they are getting their first chance to feel what it’s like to read something.  And it feels good!  And anything that feels that good is something they are likely to keep doing.

I’ve only just started this with my son, and as he’s not yet three, he doesn’t really get it yet, but he is at least interested.  Because the illustrations are done in the style of the two artists, you can spend some time pointing out the different ways that “Pigasso” painted the fruit and “Mootisse” painted the fruit.  You can point out how the styles of art are different.  Even if that’s not quite preparation for an art history class, it is at least teaching the lesson that there are many different ways to draw and paint, and by extension, that there are many different ways to do a lot of things in life.

The book ends with a page of “back matter”, information about Picasso and Matisse.  I refer to them when we are reading as “the real Picasso” and “the real Matisse.”  This page isn’t really for you to read to your kid, especially if they are still in toddler-age range.  But read it for yourself and you can pass down some of the information, bit by bit, every time you read this book with your child.  For me, we mostly just look at the pictures of the two artists.  I figure there’s time later to learn more about their lives.

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