If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold

[Review Copy Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers]

9780884485957

In If Picasso Painted a Snowman, a very friendly hamster introduces 17 different artists and their particular iconic style to readers in a fun and memorable way. Readers are brought into the story by the use of a direct second-person conversational tone making them instantly feel part of the story. It’s an immediately absorbing and engaging book that is both informative and accessible.

The book opens with the hamster postulating, “If someone asked you to paint a snowman, you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another.” It’s a fair speculation, that’s about how I would draw a snowman. But then it goes on to say, “But if Pablo Picasso painted a snowman it would look like…” and then there’s a well-placed page turn that gives readers a great “Ta Da!” moment as it shows us how Picasso may have painted a snowman. It plays like a magic trick that makes the readers want to learn more.

The hamster then guides readers through 16 more artists. Sometimes the hamster uses direct questions, sometimes it asks readers to find something or count the snowmen in the painting – propelling the readers to look a little more intently at the pictures.  The Newbolds skillfully use whatever they think is most effective way to make this story memorable – sometimes the hamster makes funny sounds and other times there’s a bit of a rhyme to the way the hamster introduces the artist – giving a good sense of variety to each artist’s introduction and avoiding monotony.

Picasso Spread 1

From If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy and Greg Newbold. Image Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

Having the consistency of the snowman in each painting is brilliant. You quickly have a control group, in a sense, that allow readers to easily compare and contrast different artists’ styles. It’s succinct, makes learning effortless, and propels a sense of, “What If?” (Ex. What if… they painted a pumpkin? A cat? What if… Frida Kahlo paint a snowman? Etc.)

If Picasso Painted a Snowman skillfully avoids taking itself too seriously. In several instances the hamster dresses for the occasion, whether it is Dali’s iconic mustache, Van Gough’s missing ear, or Picasso’s striped shirt — giving the adult audience a chuckle and the younger ones a chance to notice small details and ask even more questions. This is well utilized and keeps the book child-centered and playful.

Three of the artists are female, one artist is African American, one artist is Native American, 10 different countries are represented, and the time frame covers roughly 1775 to 2006 — which is no small feat to pack into 36 pages.

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From If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy and Greg Newbold. Image Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

You can tell that the Newbolds are knowledgeable and passionate about art and want to inspire others of all ages to enjoy and create for themselves. They do a stellar job and I sincerely hope that they’re planning on making more books that are as inspiring and as interesting as this one is. I sympathize with how excruciating it must have been for them to only be able to choose 17. There are so many more incredible artists that I’m sure they want to introduce young readers to. I’d love to see more. (*cough*, *cough*, write a series, *cough*, *cough*)

It’s also important to note that each artist only has a sentence or two associated with it. This keeps the flow of the book clean and expertly prevents it from getting weighed down with information overload. I am impressed with how many traps and pitfalls they managed to avoid.

At the end the hamster asks you to draw your own snowman. After having seen so many examples — you’ll find yourself and your little ones compelled to give it a try.

Picasso Spread 3

From If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy and Greg Newbold. Image Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

There’s a “Meet the Artists” section in the back that does a good job of succinctly giving readers tidbits about the artists’ featured in the book and it is a fantastic jumping-off point to learn more.

So while If Picasso Painted a Snowman is intended for ages 4 to 8, it’s really a fabulous picture book for anyone who wants to see a very clear differentiation of artists’ styles and easily learn to associate the name of the artist with their style. It’s also for anyone who wants to have fun imagining how they would create a snowman in an artist’s particular style. There’s really no need to put an age limit on this. It’s for everyone. It is a lot of fun to read with the whole family and is a wonderful springboard for encouraging and inspiring artists of all ages.

This picture book has also been nominated for a 2017 Cybils Award in the Fiction Picture Book Category. You can see this book and the other nominations here.

Recommended Ages 4 to 8. Tilbury House Publishers. 2017. 36 pages. ISBN: 978-0884485933 Fiction.

Where to Get it:

Author and Artist Websites:

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Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  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.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  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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