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I, Juan de Pareja: The Story of a Great Painter and the Slave He Helped Become a Great Artist Paperback – April 29, 2008
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“The author creates a fresh and different approach to biographical fiction. The novel is also an eloquent testimonial to the bonds between races.” ―School Library Journal, Starred Review
“This brilliant novel captures and holds the attention from its rhythmic opening sentence--‘I, Juan de Pareja, was born into slavery'--all the way through to the end. . . . A splendid book, vivid, unforgettable.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“The book is full of memorable scenes . . . Many paths of interest lead from this original, beautifully written story.” ―The Horn Book Magazine
“An excellent novel, written in the form of an autobiography, about the painter Velázquez and his Negro slave and assistant, Juan de Pareja . . . [who] was legally prohibited from painting because he was a slave.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
About the Author
Elizabeth Borton de Treviño (1904-2000) was the highly acclaimed author of many books for young people. Born in California, it was her move to Mexico in the 1930s that inspired many of her books, including El Güero: A True Adventure Story and Leona: A Love Story. She won the Newbery Medal in 1966 for I, Juan de Pareja.
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1. Historical Fiction. The main characters in the story were real people. You can go online and read about Juan de Pareja and his master Diego Velazquez. You can google search their paintings and read about the king that they served and the Pope Innocent X that Velazquez painted. One of my favorite parts of reading this book was to pause for a moment, and go look up the people mentioned in the book and the places. This book would be a great book for a classroom study as it presents many projects to do in addition to the reading of the book.
2. Historical accuracy: Trevino did her homework in the casting the setting perfectly, as well as how she portrayed secondary characters, like the King of Spain and the Pope. I also appreciated her attention to detail in the lesser characters like the apprentices as well as the delivery gypsy(muleteer).
3. Death is portrayed as a way of life: There is a lot of death in this book, and the reason is their was a lot of death during this time. Sickness was feared and medicine was very basic. Trevino mentions barber surgeons which is another reference to historical accuracy, something interesting to look up independently.
4. Relationships: I loved how the relationships evolve between Juan and just about every other character in the book.
5. Lolis: Lolis is a slave girl that shows up towards the end of the book. She serves as a great character opposite Juan in that she seems to be a lot of things Juan isn't, things like opinionated, hot headed, etc... I immediately like her in the book. It's like She is Donald Duck and Juan is Mickey Mouse. Sure Juan is what the story is about(Mickey is the face of Disney), but we all love Donald
What I didn't like:
1. The language used in the book will require a little knowledge of the time. While not entirely a bad thing, there are some words in the book that are innocent, but in todays culture might find offensive.
2. Juan seems to be perfect in this book. I mean he is portrayed as someone who never really makes a mistake and seems to handle adversity perfectly. While I appreciate his goodness, I can't help but wonder why the author didn't give us a little more description of his failings.
I really enjoyed this book. I felt like it was the right length, and I was entertained from start to finish.
Interesting note about the author, Elizabeth Borton De Trevino. She was an American Citizen, but she wrote this book in Mexico City where she lived with her husband. So while she was by the definition of the criteria for the medal a candidate, she may not have fit into the spirit of the medal being American children's literature. Also, Trevino wrote several Pollyanna books in her life, and wrote a series of books about her life as part of a wealthy family in Mexico
It warms my heart that this is targeted to young readers. What a great example of integrity this would surely grant them.
Simply, this story made me happy. :)
"The months went by, and at first I thought every day of Miri. But Time is a great traitor who teaches us to accept loss. I was young, and young hearts cannot always be sad." pg76
"Lately I added a prayer for Miri, too. As I knelt, it seemed as if an angel folded me within his wings, shutting out all that was ugly or hurtful in the world." pg 78
"But I am a slave!"
Is it a sin, then, to be a slave?"
No. It is an injustice. But I am a religious man. I do not expect justice here on earth, but only in heaven and I am not a rebellious slave. I love Master and Mistress." pg 126