This astonishing book is in the same tradition as Viva Frida: a biography less concerned with biographical fact than with conveying the heart of the painter’s art. The book is three sentences long. The first sentence–in the subjunctive!–starts, “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray…” and continues for fifteen spreads, showing how Matisse’s mother suffuses his life with color. The art is beautiful and, of course, respectfully evocative of Matisse. I wanted to look and look and look.

This book is a persuasive meditation on the power of Matisse’s art but also a lovely tribute to motherhood. I hope it’s the great Mother’s Day title of the year!

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Neal Porter Press  (Roaring Brook): 2014.