Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Viva Frida (which translates to Frida Lives) by Yuyi Morales is one of the hottest children’s books out right now. Since being released just a little over a year ago, Viva Frida has won several awards, like the Caldecott Honor and the Pura Belpre 2015 Illustrator Award, and has been mentioned on numerous popular book lists including The Association for Library Service to Children’s Notable Books for 2015 list. Viva Frida is based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo who is famous for her self portraits. This book looks at Frida’s life through poetry; using very few words to describe her big inspirations for painting.
So why is Viva Frida getting so much attention?
The first thing that makes Viva Frida so unique and memorable is that it’s not quite a biography, but it’s not quite a poem. It’s a little of both! The illustrations contain a lot of images that were relevant to Frida’s life and art. For example, her pet monkey, the blue house she lived in, her husband Diego, and the bird/flying motif. While the text does not provide specific biographical information about Frida, it does mention some of her inspirations and motivations behind her artwork. The text is not a narrative biography, but rather a poem. This poem contains a mere 32 English words (27 Spanish) so you really have to squeeze all of the meaning out of each word. I found it helpful to go back and reread the poem after reading the biographical information at the end of the book.
The second reason VIva Frida really stands out is that it’s written entirely in Spanish with English translations below. Beyond making this book more memorable, it begins to expose children to a language that may be different than what they’re used to. Additionally, having the text in Spanish reflects the author’s respect for how Frida “unapologetically filled her paintings with old and new symbols of Mexican culture in order to tell her own story” (Morales 29). Again I think children who speak Spanish will love reading a book like this that crafts their language so beautifully.
The third thing that makes Viva Frida truly outstanding is the illustrations. Crafted in stunning color, these illustrations were created primarily with stop-motion puppets and photography. The attention to detail Morales had with the scenes she photographed is incredible. Coupled with her use of computer imaging software, Morales created breathtaking illustrations for Viva Frida that reflect classic Mexican art and culture (Including the works of the real Frida); for which she received a Caldecott Honor.
Overall this trendy book is definitely worth checking out. I would recommend it for ages 8-10 because the reader does need to be able to read between the lines a little bit to understand the story. Although readers may call this book overly simplistic, Viva Frida shows Children’s Literature that beauty and worth is often found in the simple things in life.