Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Book Review: Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and David Diaz (Abrams Books, 2010)
Caldecott-winning artist/illustrator David Diaz' stunning illustrations are front and center in this picture book that explores a particular period of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's life, the period when she lived in San Francisco with her then much more famous husband, artist Diego Rivera.
The illustrations, obviously inspired by Frida Kahlo's own work, are done in acrylic paint, charcoal, and varnish on primed linen, and the brilliant warm colors seem to glow from the book's oversized pages. In one particularly noteworthy painting, Frida and Diego fly north to San Francisco--not on an airplane, but flying holding hands in the sky, with their suitcase, eyes closed, following a lovely pink bird.
But Frida was lonely in San Francisco, following her husband around as they explored the city, and ignored when they attended parties thrown by the city's elite. Soon she started painting her own portraits at home, works the press called "passable." While in the city, she painted a colorful wedding portrait of herself and her husband, which was later exhibited at the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. Diaz depicts Frida at the show, looking as beautiful and proud as a queen.
A brief author's note gives some additional biographical details about Frida's stay in San Francisco, and reproduces the wedding portrait she painted of herself and Diego.
This book was recently honored by the American Library Association with the Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book, and it is certainly a stunning book to add to any library collection and one that will appeal to adult picture book lovers. However, I would add that for classroom use, it's a book that would need to be supplemented with others about Frida Kahlo or women artists, since the book does not provide an overview of her life, but rather focuses on a short period at the beginning of her career.
There are a number of books for young people about Frida, including the following recommended titles:
Frida, by Jonah Winter (Arthur A. Levine, 2002)
Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself, by Margaret Firth (Grosset & Dunlap, 2003)
Frida Kahlo: Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists, by Mike Venezia (Children's Press, 1999)