Illustration: Maya E Shakur for FREDERICK & SOPHIE
Location: Up in the Snowy Skies
“George? We have an absolute emergency,” Sophie said as soon as she saw her Fairy-Manny walk into the toy room. “Frederick and I are making Best Valentine’s Friend cards, but we don’t know what to paint! So far, we have nothing,” she sighed.
George placed three cups of hot cocoa on the toy room’s table, and he took a large glass jar filled with organic dog biscuits out of his chest pocket. Wally, who laid on his back next to Frederick, looked up. They both stared at the ceiling.
“Hmmmm. This sounds like a clear case of Creatasterosis,” George said after staring at the rather joyless trio.
“That sounds serious!” Frederick said, pushing himself up from the floor.
“Oh, it is,” said George. “But don’t worry. There’s a cure.”
“You must tell us, George!” Frederick and Sophie shouted. “We don’t have much time left anymore!” Wally jumped up and let out one of his low barks.
Say no more. George took out his i-Wand 340 and scrolled through his Spell app. “Ha,” he said. “This is the spell we need!”
George gave his i-Wand a twirl and a twiddle, and the next minute, Mr. Tubby was dressed in a pink tutu Frederick and Sophie looked at each other and then looked at George. The Fairy-Manny walked over to the toy box and took out Lila Boubou, the fluffy monster. “There you go,” he said. “Something as soft as a hug. Check.”
“What else do you need, George?” Sophie asked.
“Something to draw with.” George answered. “That paint box will do.”
“Is that all?” Frederick asked.
George smiled. “Now all we need is a dash of friendship. Let’s hold hands and think a happy thought about each other, please.”
Fredrick and Sophie held each other’s one hand, and they touched Wally’s nose with their other. They closed their eyes. Frederick thought about that time he and Sophie went ice skating together. Sophie thought about her and Frederick flying over the city with their snowbuddy Hank. Wally thought about their walk around Cherry Tree Lane.
George held Lila Boubou, pushed buttons on his i-Wand 340, and said, “Skedaddle-dee-doo.”
They felt a breeze and heard the rustling of paper. Was that the smell of paint?
“Open your eyes!” George said. “Welcome to Picasso’s studio!”
The friends gasped. This was the most beautiful room they had ever seen! It was filled with large paintings. There were easels and tables with paint and brushes. There was a fireplace with a large mirror hanging above it. And a chandelier hung from the high ceiling.
“Well, close your mouths and say hello to your art teacher, please,” George said.
Frederick and Sophie looked around the studio. What art teacher was George talking about. Before they could ask, they heard a twinkle and a man with short white hair and big, dark eyes appeared. He wore a black and white striped shirt and red plaid pants.
“George! It has been such a long time,” the man said excitedly. “And you brought Mr. Frederick, Miss Sophie, and Wally!”
“How do you do?” Sophie said. Frederick bowed and Wally licked the man’s hand.:
George gave the man a happy handshake and said, “We have a clear case of Creatasterosis on our hands. But first, please, do introduce yourself.”
The man smiled. “I almost forgot! My name is Pablo Picasso. And I’ll be your art teacher today.”
Frederick and Sophie’s eyes widened. “You’re a terribly famous painter,” Sophie said.
“My mom has lots of books about you!” Frederick shouted.
“How lovely!” Picasso shouted. “I’m afraid we can’t sit down and talk for hours. There’s no time to waste. Creatasterosis is a horrible terrible thing.”
The famous painter starting walking back and forth and forth and back, from one corner to the next.
George took a book from a book cabinet, sat down on a chair, and started reading. “I’ll be here if anyone needs me,” he said.
Frederick and Sophie followed Picasso around the studio. Back and forth, forth and back. “We’re trying to make Best Valentine’s Friend cards, and Valentine’s Day is almost here.” Sophie said.
“But nothing comes out of our heads,” Frederick added.
Picasso stopped walking and squinted his eyes. “If I may ask, is your drawing table clean?”
“Oh, it’s spotless,” Sophie said.
“Well, there you have it!” Picasso said. “To fight Creatasterosis, you must make a mess!”
Frederick and Sophie stared at the painter. “Are you sure, Mr. Picasso?”
“Of course! Why do you think they call a great painting… a MESSterpiece?” This made sense to the friends. Wally nodded his head in agreement.
“Pick up a brush, at once” Picasso said sternly. “When you’re in need of inspiration. It must find you working!”
There was that twinkle in the air again. Three wooden easels carrying an empty canvas appeared. One for Frederick, one for Sophie, and one for Wally.
“But we don’t know what to paint, Mr. Picasso,” Frederick and Sophie said quietly.
“What do you mean? Look at your beautiful model!” Picasso pointed at a smiling Lila Boubou who sat proudly on a high wooden stool. He waved at Frederick and Sophie.
The two friends gasped. They were thrilled to see Lila again. “Boubou, you’re back!’ they shouted.
“Now, look at his fluffy shape,” Picasso said, “and then … forget all you learned about how to draw. I tell everybody who wants to hear it – and those who don’t – learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist!”
Frederick and Sophie thought about how they learned that a head was shaped like an egg. And a nose was placed between the eyes, and ears on the side of a head, and a mouth underneath the nose. And then they tried to forget all that.
“Try to paint your Boubou from all sides in the simplest way. Use shapes like a circle and a triangle and a rectangle. Place his eyes wherever you want to place them. Put his nose on top of his head. Reassemble it. It’s terribly fun!”
Frederick and Sophie smiled. That did sound like a lot of fun indeed.
“You can do anything you want! I call it… Cubism!” Picasso spread his arms widely and looked up. Then he looked at Frederick and Sophie and winked.
“But…What if I can’t, Mr. Picasso?” Frederick asked.
“Well, of course you can’t. That’s why you do it,” Picasso said smiling. “Me? I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Somehow that sounded complicated, and somehow it made a whole lot of sense. Frederick picked up his paintbrush and started painting. They painted and painted and painted until they could not paint anymore.
“Brushes down!” Picasso cheered.
Lila Boubou happily hopped of his stool. George clapped his hands.
Each canvas was filled with a colorful painting. “It’s like magic!” Sophie said. “First there was nothing, and now there is a whole lot of something!”
“Do you believe in magic, Mr. Picasso?” Frederick asked.
“Absolutely,” Picasso said. Everything you can imagine is real. Your painting proves it.”
Frederick and Sophie walked over to Picasso and gave him a big hug. “How could this possibly happen?” Sophie asked. “Nothing came out of our heads at home, and here we painted and painted.”
Picasso thought for a moment and said, “There’s only one way to see things. Until someone shows you how to look at it with different eyes.”
That again sounded very complicated and made a whole lot of sense.
George blew on the three paintings and all paint immediately dried up in the most perfect way.
“What can we do when we have another case of Creatastorosis?” Sophie asked Picasso.
“First, you must never see what is and ask why, but always see what can be and say, why not.”
Frederick and Sophie nodded.
Second, you must remember that every child is born an artist. It’s up to you to stay one, yes?”
Picasso jumped on a chair and placed his hands in his sides.
“Most importantly, everyone is given the gift of boundless imagination and creativity. It’s always there. Grown-ups tend to forget, you know.”
And with that, Frederick, Sophie, Wally, Lila Boubou, and George floated up. “I assume it’s time to say goodbye?” Picasso asked.
“It is, but only until we say hello again!” George shouted.
“Take care, dear friends!” Picasso as he waved with both of his arms and smiled.
Frederick and Sophie waved, Wally wagged his tail, and Lila floated upside down.
George gave his i-Wand 340 a a whoosh and a swirl, and all landed back in the toy room.
“That was amazing!” Frederick shouted. “I have so many ideas for my Best Valentine’s Friend cards!”
“Me too!” said Sophie.
Wally laid down in front of the toy room’s fireplace. He could use a dog nap. Lila Boubou walked back to the toy box and jumped in. He had lots of stories to tell to the other toys.
“Wait a minute,” Sophie said. “We forgot our paintings!”
George pointed at the wall in front of them. “You mean those three?” And there, framed and all, hung a painting by Frederick, a painting by Sophie, and a painting by Wally.
How magical art can be!