FRIDA

A picture-book homage to the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whose indomitable spirit has become a revered icon for struggling women artists. The truncated text outlines her life in a simplistic style, relating her childhood illness and the almost-fatal school bus accident that left her in constant physical pain. It was her painting that saved her, becoming her imaginary friend. Instead of crying, she painted pictures of herself crying. The account ends with a description of her paintings as “exvotos”: “magical scenes with words at the bottom, scenes of accidents with angels coming to the rescue. They are prayers for people who are sick.” Neither her marriage to Diego Rivera nor her death is included. Like Kahlo’s art, the illustrations are strikingly stylized. Done in acrylics and wax, they convey a surrealistic sensibility, using six traditional Mexican characters as a motif (e.g., skeleton, devil, jaguar) and portraying them as Kahlo’s companions. The artwork lends an air of theatricality (her infamous eyebrows are depicted as the wings of a black bird) with the text scripting that effect: “She paints what she sees in her head—on top of what she sees with her eyes.” The enticing cover depicts Kahlo as a child riding on a red bird while she is painting red birds in the sky. Explanatory notes from both author and illustrator provide context and import, citing biographical details and an artistic style that is a tribute to her. Her popularity has increased significantly in recent time—but who is the audience for this book? Certainly, the picture-book format can serve as an introduction to this exotic artist for young children, and kids may be intrigued by the unusual figures and inherent drama. But it is more likely that older readers may develop an artistic curiosity and appreciation for this woman’s provocative work. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-20320-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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BUBBA, THE COWBOY PRINCE

A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE

A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman (The Year of No More Corn, 1993, etc.) and the insouciance of Warhola, who proves himself only too capable of creating a fairy godcow; that she's so appealingly whimsical makes it easy to accept the classic tale's inversions. The protagonist is Bubba, appropriately downtrodden and overworked by his wicked stepdaddy and loathsome brothers Dwayne and Milton, who spend their days bossing him around. The other half of the happy couple is Miz Lurleen, who owns ``the biggest spread west of the Brazos.'' She craves male companionship to help her work the place, ``and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute as a cow's ear, either.'' There are no surprises in this version except in the hilarious way the premise plays itself out and in Warhola's delightful visual surprises. When Lurleen tracks the bootless Bubba down, ``Dwayne and Milton and their wicked daddy threw chicken fits.'' Bubba and babe, hair as big as a Texas sun, ride off to a life of happy ranching, and readers will be proud to have been along for the courtship. (Picture book/folklore. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-590-25506-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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