By Tomie dePaola
‘Bonjour, Mr. Satie’ is a story about the relationship between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse (friends turned rivals and then friends again), a topic we had come across in this book. The story begins when Matisse arrives in Paris from Nice – a period we had read about in ‘A Bird or Two’.
In ‘Bonjour, Mr. Satie’, Uncle Satie (a cat!) introduces his niece and nephew to Picasso’s blue phase, and cubism. Then, we are at one of the Sunday-night gatherings hosted by Gertrude and Alice. Tomie dePaola uses words to create tension and his illustrations build up the atmosphere beautifully. Matisse’s “nice paintings done in Nice” are on display at the salon. Picasso and Matisse are pitted against one another. Who is the better artist of the two?
Kids will be able to relate to the comparison and competition. Does one being good imply the other is bad? Tomie dePaola gives a light and relatable answer.
Younger readers will need to be walked through the book, since it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. When they encounter Pablo (Picasso), and Henri (Matisse), Gertrude (Stein) and Alice (Toklas) in the book, they can be informed that Picasso painted a famous portrait of Gertrude Stein (most often quoted for ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’), and she wrote a poem about Picasso. Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein together hosted a salon in Paris where American writers like Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson, and artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Braque interacted.
[Image source scholastic.com]