As you may have noticed, throughout the month of March we have been celebrating inspiring Latinas. This week I’d like to draw your attention to another biographical book – this one by award-winning author and illustrator, Yuyi Morales. In 2014, Morales added to the growing set of children’s biographies by creating a multimedia book about an important inspirational influence of hers, Frida Kahlo. Viva Frida is a book that stands out as extremely unique in its artistic qualities.
Awarded the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and recognized as a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, here is a description from Goodreads:
Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists, is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases. Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.
The book takes us through various images of Frida in different scenes with multiple objects. In the beginning of the book we see our protaganista as a delicate ceramic figurine. Frida evolves into two-dimensional form, floating through the pages, and then becomes more and more texturized until we eventually see her on canvas as a painting of herself.
The book’s multimedia artwork pays homage to Frida’s artwork through intricate details including papel picado, puppets, deer, and calabazas, among others. It also depicts aspects of her personal life, such as her pets, her blue house, and her husband, Mexican painter and muralist, Diego Rivera.
To build on her multimedia illustrations, Morales includes a personal statement and a summary of Frida Kahlo’s life. The inclusion of this biographical information legitimizes the book as an educational tool, and compensates for the otherwise extremely minimal text.. Apart from this biographical content, Morales seems to assume that her readers will be familiar with Kahlo and her art. Given this, it would be wise to pair this beautiful book with a more informative text – at least for older readers who can grasp Kahlo’s life and work in more detail.
The book is bilingual but its main focus is the photographed art that make up the illustrations. This would be a great book to use in an art class, perhaps alongside a lesson that encourages students to create a 3-dimensional figure of an inspirational person. Using Morales’ work as a guideline, students could be encouraged to depict not only their inspirational person, but also additional objects or physical details that allude to their life. Students can write a summary about their person and each physical detail they included and present it to the class.
Here are some links to resources that reveal the author’s artistic process for making this book:
- The making of Viva Frida photo essay
- Short documentary video that captures Morales’ meticulous technique for making Viva Frida
Here are some previous Vamos posts on Morales and some of her other work!
Last but not least, for those more interested in Frida Kahlo, here are a few other children’s books that also beautifully depict the artist and her work:
- Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith and Tomie de Paola
- Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and David Díaz
- Frida by Jonah Winter and Ana Juan
- Who Was Frida Kahlo? By Sarah Fabiny and Jerry Hoare
Images: Modified from Viva Frida. Illustrator: Yuyi Morales. Photographer: Tim O’Meara.