Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FRIDA by Jonah Winter

Winter, Jonah. Frida. Illustrated by Ana Juan. New York: Scholastic Press, 2002. ISBM: 0-590-20320-7. $16.95/$22.99. 

ALA Notable Book
Américas Award Honor Book
Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show selection
Parenting Magazine Best Book of 2002
2002 Parents’ Choice Gold Award (includes both English and Spanish texts)
National Association of Parenting Publications Gold Award

After captivating readers with his children’s book about Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Jonah Winter shifts his focus to the life of Rivera’s resilient wife, Frida Kahlo. In this picture-book biography, Winter describes the life of the renowned artist through the use of poetic diction and incredibly vivid illustrations. The reader is led through Frida’s struggles and accomplishments, bringing light to the way in which she used art as an escape from all the pain that she had to endure. The story begins with her childhood and ends with an explanation of her impact throughout society and of how the inspirational beauty she created instills hope.

The book was originally written in English but has also been translated into Spanish. The diction is strategically chosen and although there are only a few lines per page, the language is sharp, appealing to the emotions of children and adults alike. The format of the text is unique, and the placement varies throughout each page, adjusting to fit within the vibrant illustrations. This seems very appropriate to me, especially considering Frida’s personal artistic style; however, some of the text is on dark colors, which impedes the clarity. For this reason, I think that in a classroom setting this book may be more appropriate for a read-aloud, especially with younger children. The abstract images contain references to Mexican culture, which adds a valuable authenticity to the book. Young students, especially those that have not been exposed to these traditional images before, may not understand the intention behind the illustrations at first, but adults reading it will find themselves immersed in their bold truth.

The audience for this book depends on the intended purpose for reading. Young children will surely enjoy the simple and effortless nature of the language as well as the mesmerizing illustrations. For upper-grade elementary students, the book can be an effective way to introduce a study of Frida’s triumphs and the strains she had to endure in order to achieve them. An analysis of the language and corresponding images could stimulate a sophisticated discussion of the impact of art and the value of a resilient mindset. I would also recommend using this book as a means of encouraging an interest in reading and art for young readers, as well as introducing the concept of biographies.

Reviewed by Erica Munro

This review is part of the Special Section: Books in Spanish, featuring a collaboration with Policy and Language Studies students at San Diego State University. Read more about it here.

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