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BOOK REVIEW: Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World by Laurence Anholt

| 20 November 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World by Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
August 2016
Hardcover, $27.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Picture Book

6/10

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When little Mariana goes to Frida Kahlo’s house to be painted by the famous Mexican artist, she is scared. She’s a bit afraid of the beautiful lady with her exotic pets and her ‘frog-toad’ – and she’s heard that Frida keeps a skeleton in her bedroom. But as Frida paints Mariana, their friendship blossoms. Frida tells Mariana about her life and the terrible accident that almost killed her, while Mariana discovers how love, creativity, determination and, above all, courage, can give you wings to fly.

 

My feelings about this title are somewhat torn. 

  • Yes, it is a great introduction to the life of a respected artist, as told from the point of view of a child who knew her; appealing immediately to those readers who see the world from the same height as Mariana.
  • Yes, it has several of Frida’s actual paintings included in the story.
  • Yes, it is all about being brave and daring to dream.

But on the flip-side of that… 

  • Jokes are made about the largeness of Frida’s husband’s underwear.
  • There is the suggestion that women are better than men at everything, just because they are women (which, if you ask this female reviewer, is taking feminism a step towards the extremist side. The whole point is that we’re all people, no matter what is between our legs… but the message in this story goes a step further into saying men are less capable, just because of their own genitalia, which is the misogynistic argument in reverse).
  • Mariana is repeatedly referred to as the “bravest girl in the world”, but this reader fails to see why. It could be that Frida’s just humouring the kid who was nervous about sitting for her portrait; it could be that she’s encouraging her to do anything she sets her mind on, but this reader just couldn’t help but scrutinise the girl’s own actions to see if there was anything she was supposedly being brave about, especially in comparison to a woman who developed polio as a child and sustained near-fatal injuries in a bus crash when she was eighteen. Mariana might be brave, and she might be facing her fears, but posing for a picture hardly makes her the “bravest girl in the world”, and this seems to belittle the real suffering that some people go through.

It’s a nice, gentle story about facing your fears and fighting for your dreams, and it introduces elements of Kahlo’s life without feeling like a history lesson, but it could have flowed a little better, and some of the more preachy elements could have been handled better. 

It is a nice book to add to the collection, and I might be interested in having a look at some of his other work one day, but it is definitely not a priority.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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