I was fortunate to have visited the New York Botanical Garden’s 2015 FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life exhibition with an artist friend and view first-hand some of her paintings and the flora that she incorporated into them.
The conservatory show included a recreation of part of the exterior of La Casa Azul, as I was transported to the Mexico of Frida Kahlo, the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Title: Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos
Written By: Monica Brown
Illustrated By: John Parra
Publisher/date: NorthSouth Books, Inc (an imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG)/2017
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: art; biography; Frida Kahlo; pets; Latina; Mexico.
This is the story of a little girl named Frida who grew up to be one of the most famous painters of all time. Frida was special.
This is also the story of two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn. They were Frida’s pets, and they were special too.
The story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her many pets that inspired her and were subjects of her paintings.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Xolo dogs (Xoloitzcuintli – pronounced, show-low-eats-queen-tlee), an ancient Aztec breed, and view a short video of a Xolo playing;
- Frida Kahlo is known for her self-portraits (over 50 of her 200+ paintings are paintings of herself, sometimes with her beloved pets). Color in the portrait from the Activity Page;
- Try drawing or painting your own self-portrait;
- An Author’s Note provides further information about Frida Kahlo, the first Latina to be featured on a US postage stamp;
- Find more activities and insights in the Educator’s Guide.
Why I Like this Book:
Frido Kahlo and her Animalitos is an inspiring story of overcoming adversities and celebrating what is near and dear. For Frida Kahlo, what was near and dear were her pets, who were “her children, her friends, and her inspiration.”
I think kids will enjoy reading about the art and life of this important artist, an artist who hailed from Mexico, who was a female artist, at a time when most artists were male, and who suffered from illness and physical injury. I especially think they will enjoy how Brown relates the features of the pets to traits Kahlo shared. For instance, Brown connects the flight of Frida’s pet eagle, Gertrudis, to Frida’s imagination: “Like her eagle, Frida’s imagination could fly high.” Brown also includes a quotation from Kahlo, “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” Brown relays these insights as she explains how Kahlo was injured in an accident and spent many months in bed. By pairing these facts with the image of Kahlo’s imagination soaring like an eagle, I think Brown enables children to understand how Kahlo turned her adversities into opportunities to create art, and this will inspire them to overcome their own adversities.
Frido Kahlo’s art was colorful, a reflection of her Mexican home and love of its folk art traditions. So, too, are Parra’s vibrant acrylic illustrations. View the book trailer that captures some of these award-winning illustrations.
A Note about Craft:
Brown’s picture book biography of Frido Kahlo is not the first picture book to explore this important 20th century Mexican artist and her work. So what sets it apart and what can authors interested in writing about a well-known, and examined, figure learn from Brown’s approach? I think a key to the success of Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos is Brown’s identification of an important influence on Kahlo and using it as a lens to relate her life story and explore her artwork. That this influence is her beloved pets, a topic to which kids easily can relate, renders Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos not only an enjoyable book to read, but one for budding artists to examine, too.
Check out Monica Brown’s website and see the many other picture books and picture book biographies she has written.
See more of John Parra’s artwork on his website, and read a 2015 interview with him at Latinx in Kidlit.
Among other awards, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos was named a 2017 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year and 2018 Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration.
Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos is also published in Spanish as Frida Kahlo y Sus Animalitos.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!