CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012
In 1957, American world-class photo journalist David Douglas Duncan was working in Rome and living with two companions, Big Dog (a large Afghan hound) and Lump, a small dachshund whose name meant "rascal" in German. Poor Lump was having a miserable time of it, living in fear of Big Dog's bullying ways. Then one spring day, Duncan packs his car with cameras and film, leaving room for only one dog, and invites Lump to go along.
They arrive at a beautiful villa and are welcomed by none other than Pablo Picasso. "Buenos dias, amigo!" the artist calls to his guest.
It is not long before Lump is affectionately nicknamed "Lumpito" by Picasso and is introduced to his large (but gentle and friendly) dog Yan and his goat, Esmerelda. The painter is charmed by the little dachshund and indulges him shamelessly by letting him eat off his plate at meal times and by staying up at night with him. In the end, Lumpito abandons his master to settle in happily with Picasso. Not only does the little dog inspire some of the artist's drawings, but also, as the author tells readers, he finds his way into several paintings, one of which (called "Las Meninas" or "The Maids of Honor") is based on an old Spanish painting.
Monica Kulling is an award-winning author who has over thirty-five children's books to her credit, including In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps it Up, which was selected by the Smithsonian as one of the "Ten Great Science Books for Kids". Lumpito and the Painter from Spain is a simple re-telling of a true story featuring an endearing canine who brings out the best in a brilliant artist (who was not known for his sweet nature!). The bonding of the little dog and the great painter apparently happened at the first meeting of David Douglas Duncan and Pablo Picasso, two immensely talented individuals who formed a life-long friendship which lasted from that day in 1957 to Picasso's death.
Dean Griffiths has been illustrating picture books for the last 18 years and has won a number of awards for his works. His bold, bright watercolours enliven each page of Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, starting at the beginning of the story wherein the artist's first depiction of the adorable dachshund takes up both sides of the double page spread. Young readers will surely be attracted by the appealing full-size dust jacket which portrays the mischievous little Lumpito in his entirety.
Kulling and Griffiths' picture book with its real life characters, picturesque setting and lovable main character should prove a popular read-aloud for the K to primary group. Ensuing discussion might well include an introduction to the works of Picasso or (as would be more likely) a lively discussion on the merits and drawbacks of various kinds of dogs (or of dog ownership in general!).
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.