[Nonfiction Wednesday] Frida’s Earthy Beauty and Exquisite Art in Two Picturebook Biographies

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We are taking a short break from our comic crazy reading theme as I am excited to feature these two picturebook biographies on Frida Kahlo’s life. I meant to share these two during our multicultural reading theme, but better late than never, I suppose.

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Viva Frida

Written and Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales Photography by: Tim O’Meara
Published byA Neal Porter Book: Roaring Book Press, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Reading picturebooks such as these make me understand what Joseph Schwartz meant when he said that the picturebook has indeed come of age. I am glad to be living in a world where gorgeous books such as these exist.

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Told in deliberately sparse bilingual text, this picturebook is a feast for the senses as Frida’s every dream

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and imaginative play

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each thought and feeling is captured in such exquisite, almost-loving detail:

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While it may not technically be accurate to refer to this as a picturebook biography since it is more a celebration of the amazing woman that Frida is – it does contain an Author’s Note which provides an even further description of Frida Kahlo who was born in a blue house in Mexico in 1907. I didn’t particularly mind that there was no biographical information included in the text-narrative – not all books are meant to inform or educate. This is a book meant to inspire, meant to awaken the slumbering artist in every child’s consciousness. It is a celebration of beauty. Viva Frida.

Me, Frida

Written byAmy Novesky Illustrated by: David Diaz
Published byAbrams Books for Younger Readers, 2010
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

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In contrast to Viva Frida, this picturebook contains significant information about the time that Frida accompanied her famous artist husband Diego Rivera in San Francisco when he was commissioned to do a mural in the city.

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I love this image of Frida and Diego, holding hands, flying off into a psychedelic sky, on their way to San Francisco, a city that embraces free floating spirits.

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Frida’s sense of isolation was captured as Diego preoccupies himself with artistic work and immersed himself in the beauty of San Francisco, while Frida snoozes off or sings her corridos to amuse herself. Frida felt invisible, unseen, herself a mural in this unfamiliar city – too far away from her vibrant and colourful Mexico City.

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Eventually this luminescent little bird perching on the elephantine shoulders of Diego Rivera recaptured her voice, reestablished her sense of self, and became recognized for the strange and surreal artist that she is. While this was not explicitly captured in the narrative, there was sufficient information that allowed the reader to fill in a few of the details.

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This is also accompanied by a brief Author’s Note that shared the story behind the famous painting of Frida Kahlo, for which she became famous, and how she found her distinct voice.

These two picturebooks give homage to the vibrant and colourful life of an artist who continues to inspire through her piercing gaze and startlingly-honest art.

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Viva Frida: A 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, A 2015 Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award

Me, Frida: Pura Belpre Honor Book, Illustration; Best Picture Book, International Latino Book Award, 2011; Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2011

#AWBRead2015 Update: 79-80 (35)

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#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 53-54 (25)

  1. Great pairing of the two books! Yuyi’s book leaves you wanting just a bit more so the Novesky text could add that!

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  2. Seeing multiple books about the same subject is always interesting and a great lesson for students in telling a story and the multiple ways to do so.

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  3. Oh, I agree with you so much – we are living in an age that has seen the picture book become a thrilling art form, full of almost infinite variety in style, content, genre and audience. I do love picture book biographies – such a great way to bring historical figures to life.

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  4. We love how you paired these two texts. What a wonderful way to celebrate Frida Kahlo’s life and to show students multiple ways to write about a topic.

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  5. I love both of these so much and so fascinated with Frida Kahlo and her life and art. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. […] to the Moon by Maya Soetero-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Me Frida by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz, Listen to the Wind: The True Story of Dr. greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and […]

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