Viva Frida, by Yuyi Moralesfrida

For this week’s recommendation, I’m reverting back to my love of children’s picture books. I am of the firm opinion that picture books are not just for children; their lovely illustrations and simple messages speak to the cluttered, overburdened adult soul, as well!

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Thirty-one words. Yuyi Morales’ gorgeous book about artist Frida Kahlo, Viva Frida, only consists of thirty-one words, but says so much. Phrases such as “I search… I see… Ah-ha!”, echoed so softly in Spanish (both in text and typography) tell a simple story of discovery and imagination and yet open so many layers of potential. Young Frida, who is narrating the tale and starring in the illustrations, is surrounded by images and creatures that figure into her life and her paintings (although children have no need to know that; it’s still fun for adults to relate to): her pet monkey, Fulang-Chang, her little pup, Xolot, fawns, arrows, keys, even skulls (on fanciful puppets). Mexican imagery deftly floats through the illustrations, never heavy-handed, in warm, soft yet vibrant hues.

When we are watching Frida, the illustrations are photographs of gloriously realized puppets (the “real life” aspect, as it were). When she’s dreaming, the pages are filled with soft, gentle illustrations (even though the dreams themselves hint at complexity – as dreams do). And on the final page, when we see a stylization of one of Frida’s self-portraits, it is done in gorgeous color on a textured canvas.

I’m all for introducing children to important people – artists, inventors, adventurers, writers, humanitarians – at an early age, especially when it is done so gently, so imaginatively.

But the really wonderful thing is when the rest of us are piqued to learn more, as well. That’s what happened to me. After experiencing the beauty of this book, and reading the short note that the author included at the end explaining the bond she felt with Frida Kahlo, I felt compelled to learn more, myself. I had heard of Frida Kahlo, knew a bit about her life, had glanced at some images of her work, but my knowledge of her was still pretty spotty. But now, I’m seeking out more information, learning more, expanding my understanding, and who knows where that might lead me?

So pick up a copy of this lovely book for yourself, or for some child (or person with a childlike wonder) in your life, or check out a copy from the library. You may just find yourself on a path of discovery, and that’s the best gift a book of any category or genre can give you!

—Sharon Browning

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