Artists and Writers (Women's History Month)

Here are three more books the girls and I have read this Women's History Month!

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales.
Roaring Brook Press, 2014.
  A Caldecott Honor winner this year, Viva Frida is one of the most beautiful picture books I've seen in a while. It's bilingual, but very light on text. The visuals are the important thing here. My suggestion, if your kiddo isn't familiar with Frida Kahlo, is to read the wonderfully personal author's note in the back of the book first, so that the symbolism in the illustrations make more sense. For another lovely picture book about Kahlo, I suggest picking up Jonah Winter's Frida. illustrated by Ana Juan.

Yuyi Morales's puppet figures are amazing. Here is a video she posted on YouTube, showing the making of the book.

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter,
illustrated by Calef Brown. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009.

Speaking of Jonah Winter, this has to be my favorite book of his we've read so far. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is a wonderfully playful look at Gertrude Stein. It is written in a way that pays homage to Stein's nonsensical, rhythmic writing style. My daughters read it when I was away one night, and told me the next day, "That was the weirdest book we ever read! We didn't understand it, but we loved it!" I told them a bit about Gertrude Stein, how she played with words, more concerned with the sounds than the sense they made. I explained how she and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, lived in Paris and entertained famous authors and writers, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway. Then I told them they knew one of Stein's poems! Stein's "A Very Valentine" appears in animated form on Classical Baby (I'm  Grown Up Now) The Poetry Show. You can see the video at The Poetry Foundation website.

Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray.
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008.

Can you name the oldest American picture book in print today? That would be Wanda Gág's Millions of Cats, published in 1928, one of the few picture books to receive a Newbery Honor. (The Caldecott Award did not come into being for another nine years.) This straightforward picture book biography tells the story of Gág's happy early childhood, spent drawing alongside her artist father, listening to fairy tales. When her beloved father dies, teenage Wanda has to help care for her younger siblings, never losing her love of art. She wins a scholarship to study art in New York City. At an art showing of Gág's, a children's book editor is inspired to ask her to try her hand at picture books. Millions of Cats would soon be born! This is a very pretty and informative book. I like that the author/illustrator's style is so different from Gág's. We're already familiar with her most famous book, so we checked out Gág's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

In researching Wanda Gág (rhymes with "log") a bit, I found the link to the Wanda Gág House in New Ulm, Minnesota. Wow. I want to go to there.

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  1. You find the most amazing books! I did not know any of them! I am so curious to read all three books now. I really like Frida Kahlo so that first book will be on my To Read list for sure! And how amazing that she shares the making process!

    1. Viva Frida is beautiful! Very light on text, but those pictures... wow.

  2. That first one is a beauty! Did you ever read...I cannot remember the name of the it! The Lacuna, about someone who works for Kahlo's husband, I can't remember his name either now...Riviera? Anyways, it was interesting. I bought The Right Word recently and splashed out on the hardcover, but its a funny one - made like a picture book but really for older kids. I sort of wish we had just got it from the library. Now I need to resist the E.e. Cummings one - although that will be hard. And I must buy Millions of Cats. My only Gag illustrations are in our Grimms Fairy Tales.

    1. Ooo, I've never read The Lacuna, but I love Barbara Kingsolver, so I should definitely read it! We checked The Right Word out from the library last week. I love Melissa Sweet's illustrations, and it was a good book, but not one we'd want to reread much. I had never read Millions of Cats until Big Sis and I took a summer reading class, prior to her starting kindergarten. Their whole focus was on using picture books to teach reading, and ones with a degree of repetition are considered ideal. We read Millions of Cats in one class, and that was my first exposure to it. I like it, although I do wonder why it's survived all these years, as opposed to other picture books of its era.


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