Monday 11 September 2023

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth by Anna Fienberg (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9781760296988

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Frances has recently moved from the city to an outer suburb with her mum and dad, two years after a family tragedy. Her dad is currently overseas on business, she is starting at a new school, and she is trying to train a new puppy (named Picasso) that she is not even sure she wants. Her anxiety and sadness are ever-present and the only thing that keeps her mind calm and focused is to draw portraits of bacteria in her sketchbook.

At school, Frances meets a quiet and reserved boy named Kit, another new student. They make a connection over their mutual love of art and start spending time together. Kit introduces Frances to the beauty in nature and Frances becomes intrigued by him and his artistic talent. They both reveal enough of themselves for a friendship to develop, but a silence hovers over them. Neither one is willing to reveal their emotional pain and the sadness that hides within.

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth is a beautifully written middle-grade novel, told in the first person by 13-year-old Frances. Its themes include friendship, families, grief, nature, and the visual arts. It is recommended for readers aged 10 years and older.

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