Matisse is a sixth-grader with pretty typical 11-year-old problems: his 14-year-old sister is annoying, his parents are embarrassing. His parents, Sue and Bob, named their three children after artists: Matisse, Frida and Man Ray. And one has to admit they do have some unique eccentricities: his mom isn’t just an art fanatic, but she’s head of security at the town art museum, and his dad is a barbecue expert who is always testing new recipes for meat and “melting and banging metal into barbecues of distinction.” His sister Frida only wears purple, and “she’s sewn a new outfit for herself every week since she was 12.”
Matisse isn’t too great at playing ball, like his best friend Toby; when he finally consents to go play some “just-for-fun” baseball at the park, he gets laughed off the diamond. But he is really talented at art. He spends a good amount of time at the museum, practicing painting by copying pieces in the galleries. Then one day throws his life a curve. His mom’s museum is hosting a special exhibit of paintings by his namesake, Henri Matisse. He paints a few copies of one, a portrait of the artist’s son, Pierre. His third looks so good he compares it to the original. Then he just has to see how it looks in the frame … and everything goes haywire. He has become an art thief!
For the rest of the book, Matisse has to grapple with his guilt, fear, his feelings about having a “wacky” family, and his own unique talents, as well as figure out how in the world to get the real painting back where it belongs. The book elicits some good chuckles along the way and some feelings that any kid can relate to. A fun little read for young readers.
Rated: None. There is no language, but there is one reference to “butt” (if parents don’t like their children using that word, this is just fair warning).