Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos: An Illustrated Celebration of How the Pioneering Artist’s Love of Animals Shaped Her Character
By Maria Popova
“True art, when it happens to us, challenges the ‘I’ that we are,” Jeanette Winterson wrote in her exquisite meditation on how art transforms us. Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954) has effected such inner alchemy in millions of selves with unexampled might, perhaps in large part because her art was the product and record of her own violent and transcendent transformation. As a child, she survived polio that left her right leg withered. At eighteen, a bus accident nearly killed her when a handrail ran diagonally into her torso, from her left ribs to her uterus. It was during the long convalescence that the young Frida picked up paints for the first time and began drawing the reflection in the mirror suspended above her bed.
With her arresting self-portraits, her fiery interior life, and her courageous political idealism, Kahlo has influenced generations and inspired homages as varied as a lyrical life-portrait in dioramas and an illustrated biography. Joining them is Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos (public library) from writer Monica Brown and illustrator John Parra.
This fine addition to the canon of nonfiction picture-books celebrating cultural heroes focuses on a little-known yet essential aspect of Kahlo’s life and personhood — her intense affection for animals. Drawing on her menagerie of beloved pets — a parrot, an eagle, a fawn, two monkeys, two turkeys, three dogs, and a black cat — the story takes on a fable-like quality in exploring how Kahlo embodied the loveliest temperamental features of each species, radiating a reminder that all these centuries after Aesop, animal metaphors continue to shape our thinking.
Complement Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos with the illustrated true story of how Jane Goodall turned her childhood love of animals into a trailblazing scientific career, then revisit Kahlo on how love amplifies beauty, the meaning of the colors, and her touching letter of consolation and solidarity to the bedridden Georgia O’Keeffe.
For other delightful picture-book biographies of cultural icons, see the illustrated lives of Louise Bourgeois, Ada Lovelace, E.E. Cummings, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Louis Braille, Pablo Neruda, Albert Einstein, John Lewis, Paul Erdős, Nellie Bly, and Muddy Waters.
Published January 3, 2018