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Me, Frida by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz

Me, Frida, written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz was originally published in hardcover in 2010 and is just now coming out in paperback. Kahlo's paintings are captivating and autobiographical in ways that sometimes overshadowed her accomplisments as an artist. The pain, tragedy and disappointments of her life that are the subject matter of much of her work seem like difficult subject matter for a picture book, but with Me, Frida, Novesky has found an aspect of her life story to share with young readers that is relevant and comprehensive, serving as a fine introduction to the life of this artist and icon. 

In 1930, newly married Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were living in Coyoacán, Mexico when a telegram arrived inviting Rivera to travel to San Francisco to create murals for the city. Initially, this journey is a challenge for Kahlo had never left Mexico before. Kahlo's feelings of smallness next to Rivera, which Novesky and Diaz repeat in the text and illustrations whether through the description of a painting Kahlo does in which she is a small bird resting on the arm of Rivera, who is portrayed as an elephant, or in the changing size of Kahlo on the pages of Me, Frida.

Novesky and Diaz make the city of San Francisco part of the story as well. Rivera walks the hilly streets and travels by car outside of the city, gathering ideas for his murals. Kahlo joins him, eventually finding the courage to explore on her own, despite the language barrier, finally finding a spot on the headlands across from the city where she is able to feel large in comparison to the  distant buildings and bustle across the bay.

Novesky also chronicles Kahlo's work and emergence as an artist. In the author's note, she points out that this time period in Kahlo's life was when her work evolved from echoing the broad style of Rivera to a more "intimate and folkloric" style that we know her for today. Novesky and Diaz bring the story full circle with the completion and showing of the painting, Frieda & Diego Rivera. Kahlo, who was of mixed German and Mexican ancestry, changed the spelling of her first name to one less Germanic during WWII. In this painting, a bird holds a flowing ribbon inscribed with words documenting her time in the city. Novesky draws attention to this in her text while Diaz includes an image of this bird on almost every page of Me, Frida.

The second graders at the school where I am a librarian are working on reports on heroes right now and I have been struggling to find books at their interest and reading level about heroes for them. Having a student population that is almost 90% Hispanic, I am grateful to Novesky and Diaz for creating Me, Frida, a book that I can confidently give to the second grader who wanted to know more about Kahlo, knowing that it is both appropriate and appealing. 

More picture books by Amy Novesky featuring important women in the arts:

More books about Frida Kahlo, including the 2015 Caldecott Honor book:

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Source: Review Copy


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