Posted by: Erica Gillingham | May 17, 2012

Frida Kahlo


Jonah Winter and illustrated by Ana Juan, London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (New York: Scholastic, USA), ISBN: 1-84507-354-1, £10.99, 2005 (this edition), 28pp.

Where do you begin with the story of Frida Kahlo?

Frida enters the world.

For little Frida, that world is Mexico.

Her house is a blue house. It is in the town of Coyoacán. 

In Frida, Jonah Winter* gently writes the story of Kahlo’s life while Ana Juan brings the imagination of a child Kahlo to the eyes of the reader. The text is very sparse and it really is the illustrations that tell her story.

While other recognisable human figures appear in the book, largely it is just Frida–accompanied by creatures and scenes from her imagination. As Juan explains in her artist’s note at the end of the picture book, these figures are ‘traditional characters in Mexican folk art — funny skeletons, little devils, sweet jaguars and others.’ Juan suggests that these figures would have been in Kahlo’s surroundings as a child, but also states that she has seen them in photographs of Diego Rivera and Kahlo’s home. In this way, Winter and Juan very much set Kahlo’s work within the cultural context of Mexico. They bring this to forefront again at the end of the picture book by linking her work to exvotos (loosely, miracle paintings).

Just as Kahlo’s life was not without pain, this story does not skirt around her illness, accident, or lengths of time in bed. However, the text and illustrations translate this pain and suffering into compassionate experiences for child reader. Winter and Juan also bring focus to Kahlo’s time in recovery and/or pain as the opportunities when she learned to draw and paint, subtly delivering one message of this book: from horrible incidents, good things can come.

Frida highlights and praises Kahlo’s imagination, passion, tenacity and body of work:

Nothing can stop Frida from painting. She’s often alone, unable to leave her house, so she has to use her imagination.

She paints what she sees with her eyes — and on top she paints what she sees in her heart….

In this way, Winter and Juan give permission to any child (or adult) reader who wishes to paint what they see–whether with their eyes or with their heart.

Thank you, Eleonora Guerrero, for giving me this picture book–a fellow picture book enthusiast, artist and friend! Coincidentally, she has just featured Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter (Jonah Winter’s mother) on her Colombian children’s literature blog, Armadillos Voladores

*Jonah Winter also wrote Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude that I mentioned back in April–just sharing the love. 

Photo by Erica Gillingham


  1. Hey, I didn’t know the link between Jonah and Jeanette…
    Thanks for the publicity!
    Hugs from Bogotá,

    • Of course!

      Hugs from London,

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