Friday, October 3, 2014

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Viva Frida
by Yuyi Morales

Format: hardback

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press Bilingual edition
Copyright: 2014
Pages:  40

Genre: Biographical picture book
Source: library

Summary from Macmillion:
Frida Kahlo, one of the world's most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.  

Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida's life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

I am so unbelievably torn about this book!  The pictures are lovely - the Frida marionette is very well done and the images extremely well crafted. On the other hand, while the individual components - the monkey, the deer, etc. are all linked to Frida Kahlo - they don't as a whole really evoke Kahlo's artwork to me. Nor does it look like the famous blue house in Coyoacan to me.

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you can see more of the artwork at
The artwork in the book is really gentle and lyrical - which doesn't really match well in my mind with Kahlo's fierce, detailed paintings - many of which are also dark and sometimes really disturbing. I don't believe that I have ever seen a single self portrait with her smiling.

Self Portrait with Monkey 1940
Painted during Frida's one year divorce from her husband Diego. 
(She doesn't smile in the other portraits either though.)

The text is incredibly sparse - it doesn't say anything specific about Kahlo. It's just a generic good message. Unless you read the end notes you are not going to learn anything about her.

Which brings up another point - on one hand, Frida Kahlo is a fascinating person - she overcame polio and a terrible accident to become a world famous artist, while on the other hand her life isn't exactly picture book material - I will just suggest that you find an adult biography to read and skip over that here.

So - torn - very torn. 

And just now got into a disagreement with my daughter  - I was trying to explain that Frida and Diego were real people and real artists. She likes the book - it really is beautiful and she loves the animals. She was convinced that Frida is an animal rescuer. Sigh. We read it three times in one go, so that is a good sign, but she is now mad at me because she doesn't understand about Frida being a real artist and I don't want to just Google Frida Kahlo's paintings because there are too many of them that I don't think a six-year-old is ready to see. We need a kid friendly Frida Kahlo page (adults can visit or Her artwork is challenging for adults, never mind expecting young children to cope with it. 

To try to sum up ...  I think this is a truly fabulous picture book but that it falls down seriously as an introduction to Frida Kahlo, which is probably good in a way because I am not sure that young kids are really the right audience for her work (or private life) anyhow. (the book is listed as Preschool - Grade 3, though I can't see any third graders being even vaguely interested really.)

(I also saw a new 12 and up book - Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef that I plan to take a look at soon.)

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