Little Guides to Great Lives: ­Frida Kahlo

Laurence King. May 2022. 64p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781510230118.
Gr 1-4–Many of the details of Frida Kahlo’s life, known to adult audiences, are distressing. It is not, then, an easy feat to balance positive themes of perseverance and tenacity in the face of incredible challenges while also presenting Kahlo’s life authentically. This biography largely succeeds in finding that balance. Kahlo’s polio, traumatic bus accident, miscarriages, chronic deteriorating health conditions, and even her husband’s infidelity are gently introduced while emphasizing her unfailing commitment to her art. Direct quotes from Kahlo add depth and personality. A bigger concern may relate to the portrayal of the art itself. Kahlo’s art dealt with a lot of mature themes and challenging content. In this biography, certain iconic paintings are reinterpreted as child-friendly illustrations alongside explanative text. “The Two Fridas” is depicted as two congenial-looking Fridas holding hands, but missing are the stormy sky and the exposed hearts with dripping, winding blood vessels. Children who look up the original paintings may be unprepared for those more shocking details. That said, the illustrations are engagingly rendered in red, green, and yellow, calling to mind the Mexican flag and Kahlo’s traditional dress. Back matter includes a time line and glossary.
VERDICT An accessible, if softened, biography of a complex and anguished artist, and certainly of value in bringing her name and work to a younger audience.

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