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Reviews of the 2018 Belpré Illustrator Award winners

Winner

La Princesa and the Pea
by Susan Middleton Elya; illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal
Preschool, Primary     Putnam     32 pp.
9/17     978-0-399-25156-6     $16.99

This rhymed retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale incorporates a plethora of Spanish words and phrases; the illustrations–created with acrylics, colored pencils, and graphite on handmade paper–set the story in Peru, with clothing and other textiles inspired by those of several different Indigenous Peruvian communities. Both text and art emit much energy and humor. Glos. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the Spring 2018 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

Honor Books

All Around Us
by Xelena González; illus. by Adriana M. Garcia
Preschool, Primary     Cinco Puntos     32 pp.
10/17     978-1-941026-76-2     $17.95

A girl learns about the cycle of life, death, and renewal from her grandfather as they work in the garden, take a walk, and water a tree planted when the girl was born. Verdant illustrations full of circles and arced lines keep the focus on the close-knit pair as they explore the life-affirming traditions of their mestizo heritage; a note discusses González’s “mix of Native American and Spanish ancestry.” MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the Spring 2018  issue of The Horn Book Guide.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos
by Monica Brown; illus. by John Parra
Primary    NorthSouth    40 pp.
9/17    978-0-7358-4269-4    $17.95
Spanish ed.  978-0-7358-4292-2    $17.95

Mexican painter, feminist icon, artistic genius — to these descriptors for Frida Kahlo we should add “animal lover.” That’s the takeaway from this lovely biographical portrait (simultaneously published in a Spanish-language edition), in which the legendary artist is depicted first as a child working on a drawing of monkeys and dogs and then interacting with animals throughout her too-short life. It’s always an act of daring to illustrate a book about a visual artist, and Parra succeeds not by imitating Kahlo’s style but by supporting the upbeat tone of Brown’s accessible text with exquisitely neat compositions in a muted palette. As Brown introduces each of Kahlo’s many pets, taking some liberties with the pet chronology, she connects each one with the artist (“Frida had a cat with black, shiny fur, the same color as her long dark hair”) and uses the comparison to illuminate Kahlo’s illness-and-accident-compromised life (“Like a cat, Frida was playful. But as a child, Frida couldn’t always play”). In addition to providing her with much-needed comfort, Kahlo’s pets served as subjects for her paintings. In an author’s note, Brown mentions that Kahlo couldn’t have children, which adds another level of interest to the artist’s inclusion of animals in her famous self-portraits: might these paintings also be family portraits? NELL BERAM

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2018.

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