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Me, Frida Hardcover – October 1, 2010
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3-6–This picture book focuses on the year that Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera, spent in San Francisco while he worked on murals for the Pacific Stock Exchange. It was 1930 and Frida was young, newly married, and just beginning her own career as a painter. She had never been out of Mexico and everything about this trip was new and overwhelming. Novesky adeptly tells how Kahlo began to gain her confidence and find her place in the world, using the city and its surroundings as inspiration for her own work. The writing is succinct and careful, and a portrait of Frida as a strong, feisty woman comes through clearly. Diaz's acrylic and charcoal paintings echo Kahlo's own folkloric style, brimming with color and detail, but are unique as well, providing a rich complement to the text. This is a solid choice as a supplement for a biography collection, but libraries looking for a way to introduce the artist should turn to Jonah Winter's Frida (Scholastic, 2002) or Margaret Frith's Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself (Grosset & Dunlap, 2003) instead.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Vivid paintings illuminate this picture book portraying artist Frida Kahlo, newly married to Diego Rivera and living with him in San Francisco. Homesick for Mexico and alone while Rivera works on his mural project, Kahlo feels lost, insignificant, and restless until she finds joy in exploring the city on her own. Emboldened, she begins to paint. At a party one night, she steps out of her husband’s shadow and becomes the center of attention when she sings Mexican folk songs. Soon she exhibits a wedding portrait, Frida and Diego Rivera. The book’s topic is an odd one for a children’s picture book, but the writing is lucid, the emotions are universal, and the illustrations soar. Glowing with warm, vibrant colors, the charcoal and acrylic paintings create distinctive, statuesque people within imaginatively conceived landscapes, cityscapes, and interiors. The pink bird appearing in every scene is an element in the wedding portrait, which is photographically reproduced at the book’s end. Grades 1-3. --Carolyn Phelan
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Thank you, Ms. Novesky!
One noticeable feature of the book is its beautiful illustrations, by David Diaz, a Caldecott Medal winner. The illustrations of the book are not by Frida Kahlo, but are very similar to her style, which evokes the connection between Frida Kahlo’s art and her life story. Diaz’s use of bright colors and surrealistic images are as interesting as the text of the book itself.
The book begins with Frida Kahlo’s move to San Francisco with her husband Diego Rivera. This was the first time that Frida had left Mexico and Amy Novesky helps us feel the loneliness and isolation that Frida Kahlo must have felt during this time, Novesky also subtly introduces Frida’s inner conflict between her role as Diego Rivera’s wife and her desire to be recognized as an artist in her own right. Eventually, however, Frida took a chance and began to get to know her new environment. With this independence came confidence and perspective. The book concludes with Frida’s first show at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists, featuring Frida’s painting Frieda and Diego Rivera. Novesky describes, “Adorned in her best dress and necklaces of ancient jade, her jet-black hair braided, Frida walked proudly through the crowd. When people saw her, they stopped and stared at her in wonder.” This final image makes the reader want to cheer for Frida’s success.
I would strongly recommend this book for kindergarten through third grade. Frida’s identity as a Mexican woman is a great way to initiate a discussion about culture and gender. Frida missed Mexico when she was in San Francisco and in many ways, found American culture and people boring and uninteresting. She also struggled against society’s understanding of her as the wife of a famous artist. In the 1930s, it would not have been unusual for someone’s identify to be strongly influenced by the identity of their husband, but I think it is important for all children, both boys and girls, to think about the important of developing your own identity and to be able to stand on your own two feet.