Casa Azul: An Encounter with Frida Kahlo

Casa Azul: An Encounter with Frida Kahlo

by Laban Carrick Hill

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Frida Kahlo's work comes to life—literally—in this magical realist novel, the latest addition to Watson-Guptill's acclaimed Art Encounters series. The story alternates between Kahlo's home in Mexico City, Casa Azul, and the journey of a teenage girl and her young brother, lost in the city. At the mystical Casa Azul, everything with a face…  See more details below


Frida Kahlo's work comes to life—literally—in this magical realist novel, the latest addition to Watson-Guptill's acclaimed Art Encounters series. The story alternates between Kahlo's home in Mexico City, Casa Azul, and the journey of a teenage girl and her young brother, lost in the city. At the mystical Casa Azul, everything with a face talks—including Kahlo's pet monkey, her cat, portraits on the wall. Over the course of the book, the cover painting, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, transforms from a nightmarish vision of death into a life-affirming masterpiece. This dramatic story offers a vivid reimagining of the life and work of a woman as well known for her amazing life as for her amazing art.

Laban Hill is a National Book Award Finalist and recipient of the Parents Choice Gold Award

• Frida Kahlo is one of the most popular artists among young people today-her art and her blazingly flamboyant style make her eternally up-to-date

• Ties in to school curriculum in art and social studies

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera formed one of the most intriguing and controversial couples in the twentieth century. Highly politicized, undeniably brilliant, they moved in the most glittering social circles of mid-century America and Europe. Their volatile, complex and often scandalous personal lives were played out on a sweeping international stage. Creating an intimate picture of Frida Kahlo suitable for young adolescents is a daunting task, one which award-winning author Hill has undertaken with enthusiasm and panache. In a tale stylistically akin to the magic realism of Latin American authors, he weaves a fantasy of two youngsters who become involved with Kahlo at one of the most critical periods of her life, when she was divorced by Rivera and finally came into her own as an artist. The story revolves around the creation of her famous Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. Hill does not mince words when it comes to Kahlo's suicidal tendencies or her sexual ambivalence, but still manages to craft a magical, light-hearted and ultimately satisfying tale for young adults. This title is part of Watson-Guptill's "Art Encounters" series for young adults designed to illuminate famous works of art and their creators through fiction. Highly recommended to introduce the sophisticated young reader to this fascinating artist. 2005, Watson Guptill Publications, Ages 12 up.
—Michele Tremaine
Maria and her brother Victor leave their home in the Mexican countryside and head to Mexico City to find their mother after the death of their grandmother, who took care of them. Their adventures put them into the clutches of a con artist and they are taught the wiles of living on the street. It is a grim reality that contrasts with the world in Casa Azul, the home of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. In Casa Azul, monkeys talk to cats and pictures talk to skulls. The realm of magical realism is explored through contrasting scenes in the streets with the fantasy in the home, but the grim reality of Kahlo is that she is depressed following her divorce and still in much physical pain from an earlier trolley car accident. (These details are from Kahlo's life.) Maria and Victor are wending their way to an encounter with Kahlo—the last-known address of their mother is next door to Casa Azul. Along the way Maria shares with her brother the story of El Corazon and El Diablo, two of the most well known Mexican wrestlers. It is her intention to have the good El Corazon win the match against the evil El Diablo, but as the children meet with Kahlo, Maria learns about the role that both good and evil play in life. In the end, the children find their mother, and Kahlo finds a measure of satisfaction that comes out in her paintings. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Watson-Guptill, 147p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Using the story of a country girl and her brother hunting for their mother in the maze of Mexico City in 1940 as a framework, Hill introduces the tempestuous life and art of Frida Kahlo, who befriends the children. The book is deftly written with keen attention to characterization and setting; the author lovingly describes the sights and sounds of both rural and urban Mexico. Fourteen-year-old Maria Ortiz and her younger brother, Victor, as well as ancillary characters like Fulang the monkey and Chica the cat are rendered in believable terms (although "believable" only goes so far when some of the protagonists are talking animals). Indeed, comic personalities like these and a sentient sugar skull allow readers to identify more easily with Kahlo's complex world. Despite some incredulous plotting (Frida and Diego Rivera, recently divorced, reuniting to foil a diamond heist!), Hill's short art-history novel accomplishes with style what it is meant to do-offer an introduction to a solitary, difficult person.-Steev Baker, Kewaskum Public Library, WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two children briefly enter the magical world of surrealistic painter Frida Kahlo in this latest title of the Art Encounters series. Searching for their mother, Maria and Victor arrive in Mexico City on the same day in 1939 that artist Diego Rivera's divorce from Kahlo is finalized. As the homeless children fall prey to an engaging street thief named Oswaldo, Kahlo returns to Casa Azul where she sinks into deep despair, alarming her fantastical companions. Maria and Victor wonder if Oswaldo is friend or foe while Kahlo wonders how she will survive without Rivera as she struggles to complete her strange Self-Portrait with Monkey and Hummingbird. Fate brings the children to Casa Azul where they experience Kahlo's enchanted environment and learn that "life must always be a balance between joy and sorrow." Although there is just too much going on here, Hill's blend of realism, fantasy and Aztec myth nicely mirrors Kahlo's surreal juxtaposition of real and unreal in her lifelong attempt to paint her own reality. Magical realism from cover to cover. (notes, biographical timeline, suggested reading) (Historical fiction. 12+)

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Product Details

Publication date:
Art Encounters
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
11 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Laban Carrick Hill is the author of the award-winning Harlem Stomp! (0-3168-1411-3), a history of the Harlem Renaissance that Publishers Weekly called "compelling." He has also written Xtreme Mysteries and many other books for young adults. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.

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