nonfiction nuggets…the wonder of color in the world of Matisse

the iridescence of birds cover imageThe Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse, by Patricia MacLachlan, pictures by Hadley Hooper
published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Blazing red and seaside blue.

Orange oranges and the purple-silver-turquoise of a pigeon’s iridescent feathers.

Henri Matisse’s sumptuous colors stop us in our tracks when we stand before his immense paper cutouts and radiant paintings. 

the iridescence of birds illustration hadley hooper

Yet as a child, he lived in a rather drab little town in northern France, where gray cobblestones and pale stucco chilled under rainy skies.

How does so much color saturate his artwork? This is the question beloved-author Patricia MacLachlan seeks to answer in this gem of a book. Her lyrical writing, well known to us through her work in Sarah, Plain and Tall and numerous other short novels, graces the brief, lovely text of this appealing book.

the iridescence of birds illustration2 hadley hooper

MacLachlan easily draws us in with ideas as tantalizing as the aroma from that French bakery around the corner. Though it is nonfiction, she presents us an opportunity to wonder, to imagine, rather than simply loading us up with facts and answers. I love that particular quality of this text. Simultaneously, she doles out interesting tidbits that help us better appreciate Matisse’s work.

Hadley Hooper employs a myriad of Matisse-inspired patterns, forms, and elements in her gorgeous, bold, relief-printed illustrations. You will recognize Matisse on every page. Her palette, her strong compositions, those oranges and leaf shapes and red-red room, envelop us in his art. Besides, her printmaking is spectacular, and happily, it completely dominates every page.

the iridescence of birds entire cover image hadley hooper

The Author and Illustrator notes are as intriguing as the book itself, and a short list of extra titles to read (since this will definitely whet your appetite for more) is included. 

I hope this book receives some awards as that season unfolds. It’s one of the best non-fiction titles you’ll meet. Ages 3 and up.