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Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2009
At last a children's picture book devoted to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas! And what an entertaining and fun introduction for both children and adults. The text reflects Gertrude's repetitive, terse style with a touch of humor which I think would also have made her laugh. The events and places chosen for the story accurately reflect aspects of GertrudeandAlice's life together ---whether their parties in Paris (with Picasso, Matisse and Hemingway), their picnics in the countryside, Alice's typing of Gertrude's manuscripts or jaunts with their poodle Basket. The brightly colored illustrations are reminiscent of the vibrant colors in the paintings that hung in their apartment in Paris and are creatively mingled with the text which is presented in small and large fonts. A wonderful book that children and adults will want to browse through over and over again to become a part of the lives of this remarkable couple!

Two small errors in the book--Basket their poodle was white not black and in the biographical note about Stein, the year of her birth is incorrect---should be 1874 not 1872. (Maybe these can be fixed in future editions!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2015
"Gertrude is..." Not Jonah Winter at his best. "Gertrude is..." A series of vaguely amusing vignettes of life in Paris. The illustrations are fun, the use of language modeled after Stein, and if your child is already familiar w Picasso, Dali, Matisse then your child will have a good time picking out their friends in the crowd.

BUT. This is no way to introduce the visual artists -- they are sidelights without enough to captivate the imagination. It is, after all, about Stein.

More bothersome to me is the lack of plot (conflict? Nope. Resolution? Nope) or character development. This is a "story" in which a few things happen -- a party, a walk, a picnic, but they add up to nothing more than a series of vignettes.

My long attention span, artist oriented 4 yr old picks this one from time to time. But far better Jonah Winter choices are "Ffabulous Feud of Gilbert & Sullivan" which has conflict, resolution, and a reassuring moral about friends who fight or "Secret Works of Hildegard von Bingen" conflict, resolution, character development, and an important lesson about sharing our gifts (and visions, in more than one sense) with the world. Relative to these greats, "Gertrude is" flat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
Go ahead and call it a children's picture book, but I think you are wrong; the young children I read this book to looked at me in bewilderment.

It looks like a picture book. It reads like a picture book. But reading it to young children is like asking junior high students to read Great Expectations; it can be read, but it should be saved for those old enough to really appreciate it.

I, for one, loved it. It would probably be among my top picks for best nonfiction picture book for this year. It's bright and colorful. The text mimics the style of the subject, poet Gertrude Stein. It's funny. As Gertrude Stein might say, A picture book is a picture book is a picture book is a picture book. But sometimes it's not.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2010
I'm surprised that the specs for this book state ages 9-12.

Both of my daughters, ages 2.5 and 5.5 ***love*** this book! It's one of their favorites.

It's written in very unusual style for a child's book -- apparently it's written the way Gertrude wrote.

Alice is also written a central part of her life, and I'm glad they aren't brushing her under the rug.

The illustrations are fantastic, very beautiful, and with a different palette on each page.

The text is all over the place, with font size changing to indicate emphasis, and not all lined up on a horizontal plane -- sometimes it's wavy or stacked.

Highly recommend this book for people who want to read outside the usual stack.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2009
Modern, fun, silly and also kind of brilliant.

A perfect blend of interesting, lyrical, surprising language and engaging, whimsical illustration, this picture book offers an accessible introduction to a wonderful, modern life.
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on January 25, 2011
This child's book is written in Gertrude Stein's style of writing. Whimsical and also introduces children to famous artists who were part of Stein's circle, e.g. Picasso, Matisse. The issue of the relationship between Stein and Alice B. Toklas is subtly suggested.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2012
My daughter loves this book, and it has been a bedtime story staple from about 18 months. The paintings and quasi-Steinian prosody she found instantly compelling, and they remain so. Many will be tempted by its emulation of high modernist motifs and its apparent ability to familiarize very young children with cultural icons, many more will just find it fun. And if your kid gets to it first, they will decide based on whatever criteria they use. The latter will be less fussy than my own, since I am a bit of a scholar of Stein. For anyone considering this book, though, you might equally consider Stein's own books for children, THE WORLD IS ROUND and TO DO: A BOOK OF ALPHABETS. They have all the elements of this one, but without suffering from a few things that for me are important, and I thought worth mentioning.

I always skip several lines of text when reading this book to my daughter. More than several. Let's call it "quite a few." And here is why.

First, there is consistent misuse of the word modern. A line like "All art is modern when it is being made" is patently bogus usage. Modern refers to the historical/aesthetic period Stein represents, and it is not at all the same thing as saying "contemporary." One of Stein's most important and frequently read texts, "Composition as Explanation," is all about how and why this is so. It is also a funny, rhythmic, dynamic and accessible (in terms of its vocabulary) text, so how the authors of this children's book missed or misread it, I have to wonder. Even an attentive reading of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas should preclude this mistake.

There is needless reference to art collecting as commodity exchange. In fact, it is never mentioned that Stein collected art, but children are invited to buy paintings. Why? This is a missed opportunity, at the very least. What Stein did was very close to curating, closer than to what most contemporary collectors do (many hire consultants). In a book encouraging youth to think critically about what they see, art is reduced to merchandise?

Modern art is repeatedly referred to as "crazy," this in a book that wants to legitimate and exalt some of its most daring innovators, particularly Picasso and Matisse. About Stein's own work, the authors insist that it doesn't "make sense." I think the point here is to use the kind of dumb objections children would risk hearing from their peers or even their teachers, were they to strike out and try something "fun." (By the way, I love the emphasis on the full range of emotions involved in aesthetic innovation, from anger to joy. My favorite line in the book is "Thank you for having fun when you write.") But it is quite unnecessary to amplify the thoughtless suggestion that non-normative grammar and non-mimetic visual forms lack deliberation or logic ("crazy") or don't compute or affect. If Stein's writing made no sense, why ape it here? Why do children love this book with their senses, adoring the colors and forms as well as the musicality of the language? Why not focus on and thus instill the virtues of this kind of work?

One answer is that the legend is easier to know than the truth. But that is because the former conceals the latter. My daughter also loves hearing Stein's own writing read aloud. She understands its virtues more than most fusty literati.

Anyway, these are important enough to me that I regularly skip over a lot of stuff. Yes, we'll call it "a lot." And it bugs me, really bugs me, every time I read the thing. That's getting to be a lot of bugging, seven buggings a week sometimes!

One lovely and subversive touch here is the use of the cow. I don't know if the authors are aware of this--they probably simply know that children like cows, pictures of them, the sounds they make, and even simply pronouncing the word "cow." But parents might enjoy knowing that "cow" was code for Toklas' bowel movements, and Stein fetishized them in both their private correspondence and in her published work (e.g. "As A Wife Has A Cow").
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2009
Gertrude is Gertrude and Alice is Alice and readers are invited to join them for tea. Gertrude is a queen who knows famous writers and has some improbable names for pets in this intriguing story filled with fine drawings by Calef Brown.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2009
A pleasant simple habitual and tyrannical and authorised and educated and resumed and articulate separation. This is not tardy.

(If you are a fan of 20th Century modern art and literature, you must add this to book to your child's library! It is a brilliant invitation to 27 Rue de Fleurus for all modern-revivalist toddlers. Calef Brown's captivating artwork brings Jonah Winter's Stein-like prose to life. This book is whimsical, modern, fun, semi-historical, and, above all, a perfect introduction to the abstract genius of Gertrude Stein, mother of the Lost Generation.)
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Okay, from reading the endnote I understand that the title is an imitation of Gertrude Stein's most quoted line, "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." I will admit it - Gertrude Stein is someone I've heard of (how could I not as an English major?) and I think I may have read something she's written, but obviously it did not have a major impact on me or I would remember more. (Watch, I'll find a short story or something and say "OH! I do like/remember her!")

Anyways, I guess my point is that if you know nothing of Gertrude Stein this book will seem difficult and silly. On the other hand, kids love silly, so they may very well enjoy the word play that is going on in this book. Unfortunately, I was not entertained, nor did I really love the format. I do like that the illustrations are done in the spirit of Picasso's modernism, but that type of work just doesn't always work for me. I also liked the fact that we're introduced to Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and a poodle named Basket who was apparently a popular figure at Gertrude's Paris salons.

Really, I don't love this book because it's just not my thing. The upside of this book is that it is a very teachable way to talk to children about the expatriates like Stein who lived in Paris in the early 1900s. The fact that the book introduces such figures as Picasso, Matisse and Hemingway allows teachers to talk more about the art of the artists, and the writings of the writers (and no, Hemingway is not a favorite either. I once had a professor who said if you loved Hemingway you would loathe Fitzgerald, and vice versa. I fall squarely in the love Fitzgerald camp, in case you wanted to know - so no, you will most likely never read a review of Hemingway by me).

I think I have now officially written the most confusing review ever. Bottom Line: Read it for yourself first or even test it out on your child(ren). There is no reason some people won't like this book, I just don't.

The best part of the book for me is that it encourages children to write if they want to, and that they should write what they want. So if they want to write, `Red is red is red is red," then so be it. They could apparently be the next Stein!

Notes on the Cover:
The purple on Gertrude's dress really pops against the yellow background. Again, the cover really doesn't do it for me. I was intrigued with the premise of the book, but it sadly did not live up to my expectations - but then again, I'm probably missing the whole point of it as I am not an avid reader of Stein.
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