Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Renoir and the boy with long hair: A story about Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Renoir and the boy with long hair: A story about Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Wendy Wax
Illustrator:  Nancy Lane 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Barron’s, 2007   ISBN: 978-0764160417

Little Jean Renoir has very long hair. The boys in the neighborhood tease him about his hair calling him “girl,” and even the washerwoman thinks he was “pretty.” Jean desperately wishes he could cut his hair and on his way home from the market on day he decides that he is going to ask his father. His cousin Gabrielle suggests that Jean not ask his father when his father is painting. It would not do to upset the great painter after all.

So Jean waits until his father comes home and then he asks him if he can have his hair cut. His father refuses to allow it. After all, Jean’s brother Pierre did not get his hair cut until he went to school, and why should Jean be any different.

When Jean’s artist friends come over for dinner they talk about their paintings and the changes that have taken place in the art world. Paul Cezanne asks Jean how long he intends to grow his hair. Jean explains that he wants to get it cut but that his father won’t let him.

Again and again people mistake Jean for a girl because of his hair, and when his father paints a portrait of him, the Jean in the painting really does look rather like a little girl with a bow in her hair and with her face looking down at a piece of sewing.

Not until Jean’s little brother Coco is born is Jean finally given a reprieve. His father agreed that it is time for Jean to go to school and to have a haircut.

Based on the real story of Jean Renoir and his father, this delightful picture book not only tells an interesting story but it also gives young readers a sense of what was happening in the art world in the late 1800’s. Full of illustrations and reproductions of Renoir’s work, this story will not only interest budding young artists but it will also resonate with children whose parents are, shall we say, reluctant to have them grow up too soon.