Tag Archives: PYP

#365PictureBooks Day 1 The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse


I recently visited the Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch and after seeing this book decided it was an essential addition to use with several year groups as part of the PYP Trans-disciplinary theme “How we express ourselves“. One of the units of inquiry within this theme for my Year 6 students is all about creativity – defining and exploring what it is and how it leads to innovation. Quite a difficult concept for children to grasp and an area where the simplicity of a picture book can be a wonderful curiosity starter.

If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary French town where there were gray skies and you wanted color and light and sun, what might you become? [Inside dust jacket]

The reader starts this book turning blue/gray pages with rather monotone illustrations but as we read the simple, almost poetic text about Henri’s exposure to colour and creativity through his mother, the pages become more colourful and rich, rather like his journey from the chilly north of France to the sun drenched and colourful streets of Provence.

“Why do painters paint what they do?……In writing this book I think I found the answer to the question that inspired it. Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered – he painted his feelings and his childhood.” Patricia Maclachlan.

The back pages helpfully include recommended books and notes from the author and illustrator. The notes from illustrator Hadley Hooper are particularly insightful, detailing her inspiration and research for this work and something that will help young readers understand the creative process a little more.

Vocabulary: Iridescence is a wonderful word and I can imagine the use of it in the title and subsequent revelations within the text will lead to lots of conversation. It would be great to have some materials or objects with iridescent qualities to show children when reading aloud.

I shelve picture books like these with our non-fiction. Using traditional DDC this would be found at 759.4 MAT where 759 equals painting and the .4 denotes that the painting or painter is French. I’m “hacking” Dewey in our Junior School library so I’m not splitting painters into different countries. I am still deciding whether to keep the books about painters with their movements or is that is still too complicated for browsing? and I’m still musing over whether to ditch the 759 altogether and just have artists (not just painters) arranged by name. In the meantime this will be found at 759 MAT where other non-fiction and picture books about Matisse reside. I no longer have biographies shelved at 920 – only compendiums of famous people or leaders that cover many walks of life or interest areas.

Bibliographic details:

The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse / Patricia MacLachlan ; pictures by Hadley Hooper.

Published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press.


RRP NZ$33.00

You will be able to borrow this from Auckland Libraries as it is currently on order for several branches.

Awards, accolades and rave reviews:

The iridescence of birds is being discussed as a possible contender for the Caldecott Award this year, but it has also made many of the ‘best of 2014’ lists prevalent at this time of year.

Kirkus Reviews Best books of 2014 – Childrens

Nerdy Book Club 2014 Nerdy Awards for non-fiction picture books

The Horn Book

Publisher’s weekly (starred review)

School Library Journal (best books of 2014) also a starred review

Publisher website Lots of resources here including a slide show of pages from the book.