If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree
An Illustrated Introduction to Art History for Children by Art Teachers
Written by Eric Gibbons
Illustrated by 30 Art Teachers
Firehouse Publications 9/09/2014
100 pages Ages 7+
“This book was conceived of, written by, illustrated by, and created by 30 art teachers from all over the world who share a passion for art history and teaching. Each teacher has emulated an artist of his/her choosing, and included a Christmas tree in a way that honors the work of that artist. Some took on more than one artist to bring you a total of 44 works of art. From the Renaissance to the modern genres, these art teachers, elementary to high school, created these delightful illustrations to share with you.” [back cover]
If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree, began as an interesting idea: get together art teachers from around the world to produce an art history book appealing to children. What is more appealing than Christmas and the iconic Christmas tree? Twenty-nine art teachers, including the author, each painted a Christmas tree (or a few) in the style of a selected artist from as far back as the Renaissance.
First, let me caution. I am not an art reviewer, collector, or connoisseur. Like everyone, I know what I like, but often cannot explain why. If a piece makes me linger, or stare a little longer, or gets me thinking I either love it or hate it. Same expressions for both, which is the thing about art: It can provoke such strong emotions. One person can love a piece, while another person will not.
If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree excited me from the query. All of these teachers collaborating to produce an art history book for children disguised as Christmas book. Brilliant idea. If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree is nothing less than a visual feast for the eyes. Emulating Edvard Munch, Daryn Pake Martin’s piece is the only one with Santa. I love the swirl of colorful air above a lake of blue. The tree’s curving and reaching toward the group of reindeer is visually striking. It is one of my favorites.
When asked to review a book for ages 7 to 18, or some other huge age range, I shudder. Yet, If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree, and a companion book, If Picasso Went to the Zoo, actually works for this diverse group of kids. The art is diverse and appropriate for any classroom, elementary or secondary. The art teachers involved range from the same K to 12 range. In addition to the book, there are lesson plans available, free for teachers to use with their art lessons.
For each Christmas tree, Gibbons wrote a poem about the selected artist, starting each poem with these two lines (changing “Picasso” to the selected artist’s name):
“If Picasso had a Christmas tree,
are these the colors and shapes you’d see?”
It was difficult to keep the meter correct with “Picasso” changing to a different name on each successive spread. Some names are long, some short, and all variously stressed making consistent meter a difficult, if not impossible task. But the most difficult reading comes from attempting to follow the author’s introductory note:
“. . . they are meant to be read in a cadence similar to T’was the night before Christmas.” (sic)
As hard as I tried, I could not read in the suggested cadence. For me, not even the first two lines follow the rhythm of that iconic poem. The text would be much better if written in prose. The information would be easier for children to comprehend. The use of slanted rhymes did not help.
Where If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree shines is in the art. The art teachers collaborated to make a stuning art book that will please children ages 7 to 107. (Why not those age 108 and older? No idea.) Forty-four different artistic styles combine to make one glorious Christmas paperback. If this was printed in large hardback, the outcome would be a beautiful Christmas table book. If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree is also a fantastic art appreciation book. I did not choose which pieces to show, but think these four pieces nicely represent the art in If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree.
If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree was a massive project, masterminded by Gibbons and published by Gibbons. Whether you like art for the sake of art, interested in teaching art to kids, or want to encourage projects like this one, you’ll enjoy the work of these art teachers and their variously styled Christmas trees. There are so many beautiful Christmas Trees, many of which may still be for sale.*
IF PICASSO HAD A CHRISTMAS TREE. Text copyright © 2014 by Eric Gibbons. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by 29 Art Teachers. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Firehouse Publications, Bordentown, NJ.
Also by Eric Gibbons
If Picasso Went To The Zoo (w/ Illustrations by 50 Art Teachers)
The Emotional Color Wheel: Elementary Edition
The Art of Teaching
. . —and others
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Full Disclosure: If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree: An Illustrated Introduction to Art History for Children by Art Teachers by Eric Gibbons & 28 Art Teachers, and received from Firehouse Publications, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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