Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shades of Diego Rivera

Diego, concept and illustrations by Jeanette Winter, text by Jonah Winter, translated from the English by Amy Prince. Knopf, 1991

This is a concise little biography about the artist, Diego Rivera. Winter (The Librarian of Basra, 2005) begins Rivera's story with his birth. He was a sickly infant who survived because of the devoted care of an Indian healer. His twin brother did not live. He was a daydreamer in school but his parents encouraged his artistic abilities. He studied art in Europe but was inspired by his memories of life in Mexico. Winter ends the book as Rivera's career as a painter whose "murals told the story of the Mexican people" is just beginning.

The text is in English and Spanish. Each of Winter's illustrations is edged in a unique painted frame. I wish they had chosen to feature the illustrations in a larger format. The paintings are colorful and engaging and deserve more page space.

Clara & Señor Frog by Campbell Geeslin, illustrations by Ryan Sanchez. Schwarz & Wade Books, 2007

A fictional companion to the Diego Rivera story is this picture book, Clara & Señor Frog.

Clara is not happy when her mother is courted by a famous artist named, Miguel. In her mind Clara calls him Señor Frog. Her mother is a magician's assistant so Sara is fascinated with the idea of magic. Señor Frog's painting intrigues her and when he paints her, wearing a white peasant dress in a mural, she marvels at the "magic" that places her image on the wall. Señor Frog invites her to paint with him and Clara discovers that painting unleashes her own imagination or "magic."

Ryan Sanchez evokes the personage of Rivera with Señor Frog's rotund, mustached figure and his style as a muralist. The flowers that Clara is holding in her mural portrait are directly inspired by Rivera's paintings.

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