Cover of Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos shows Frida Kahlo as a child, painting, surrounded by animalsFrida Kahlo and her Animalitos gives young readers an introduction to the artist’s life and work through the lens of her pets. This is an especially great choice since Kahlo’s animals so often appear in her art. The book opens in a way that will sway any animal lover: “This is the story of a little girl named Frido 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 text draws connections between Kahlo’s characteristics and her pets’ characteristics: “Like a cat, Frida was playful.” It would be fun to read this book next to Quick as a Cricket in a unit about similes. The books feel very different in tone, but they use the same literary techniques.

This would also be a great book to pair with Yuyi Morales’ Viva Frida. The dream-like state of Viva Frida is very different from the story-telling here, but the combination of the two books would be a great introduction to an important artist.

John Parra’s illustrations use images and ideas from Kahlo’s paintings but are their own wonderful things. I especially loved the loving way he included details in the art–roller skates under the bed, a paleta man pushing a cart in the background at a city park, books stacked on the floor behind Kahlo’s wheelchair. Every page is a pleasure to explore.

Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra. North South Books: 2017.

Children with book around a globe

I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Cover of Cloth Lullaby, showing girls in a tent looking at gardenThe language in this beautiful book about artist Louise Bourgeois is lyrical and full of abstract language: metaphors, similes, and sly double-meaning phrases. Right from the first line we’re plunged into the world of words packed tight with meaning:

“Louise was raised by a river.”

The obvious meaning is that her family lived next to a river–which they did–but the book also quietly suggests that she became who she was because of the river–that the river raised Louise.

The metaphors and similes are rich and evocative:


Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like a wool thread through everything.

Louise wove together a cloth lullaby.

Drawing was like a thread in a spider’s web.

It’s fitting that all of this abstract, figurative language is used to describe an artist whose work was symbolically figurative. We see in the back matter some of the amazing spiders she sculpted–her favorite subject–including one with a tapestry body.

The art in the book is beautiful and slightly surreal, matching the language beautifully. The production values of the book are rich and satisfying, too. The book has a cloth binding–absolutely appropriate for a book about a textile artist.

I’m so glad Alyson Beecher highlighted this book earlier this month on Kid Lit Frenzy. You can see more of the beautiful art in the book at Brain Pickings while you wait to get your own copy.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Abrams Books for Young Readers: 2016.

Children surrounding a globe and the words "Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016" I participate in Kid Lit Frenzy‘s 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


stone giant

This book opens with a giant block of marble standing in a courtyard in Florence and tells the story of how that chunk of rock became Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David. The book doesn’t break any new ground historically, and it doesn’t rely on primary documents, but the clever structure makes it a great introduction to Michelangelo. Focusing first on the marble rather than on Michelangelo actually helps us see the artist more clearly because we understand better the world in which he worked.

The writing is rich with sensory details:

In summer the stone dust mingled with the sweat on his skin and made a kind of mud. In winter his breath hung in the air. He stopped only when he had to, to eat or to sleep.

Even if you don’t have plans for a trip to Florence in the near future, it’s worth visiting the statue David here in this book.

Check out the one minute trailer for the book.

Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley. Charlesbridge: 2014.