Tag Archives: Laurence Anholt

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World

Rather like Mariana, the young girl in Laurence Anholt’s new book about Frida Kahlo, I have been a little scared of Frida. She seems so different, and intimidating. She’s not, of course, and now both I and Mariana know this.

As in Laurence’s other books about famous artists, Mariana is a real child from Frida’s real life. Her father was a wealthy art collector, and Frida painted portraits of everyone in his family, and Mariana was the last to sit for Frida.

Laurence Anholt, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World

During the time it took for her portrait to be painted, Mariana learned about Frida’s life, including the accident that almost killed her, and why Frida always wore long skirts, and about her husband Diego Rivera. By the end of the painting the two were firm friends. Not even the skeleton above Frida’s bed scared her any more.

I love these artist’s life books! I actually have a whole pile here at the moment, because I’ve been hoarding them. Frida Kahlo is new, but the ones about Matisse, Degas and Cézanne have recently been reissued and they are so enjoyable.

Laurence Anholt, Matisse: King of Colour

Matisse might have been my favourite. Except I really loved Degas. And Cézanne was touching. So I don’t know. Either all these artists were really special and lovely people, or Laurence knows how to make them appear so. I especially admire the way he uses children and young people close to the artists to show what they were like as human beings, and not just the way we view these famous painters now. Life wasn’t always a bed of roses back when the painting was happening.

I do like Matisse’s chapel!

Papa Chagall

I knew less about Marc Chagall than I wanted to admit. Sometimes the names of these big artists just blend together and you know they are great, but who painted what, exactly?

Now I know, because I have been properly introduced to Marc Chagall and his paintings and his life story, all in one fell swoop through the medium of a children’s picture book. They are often the best.

In Tell Us a Story, Papa Chagall, Laurence Anholt paints pictures of Chagall and of his paintings, with ‘real’ paintings used every now and then to illustrate parts of Chagall’s life. They are truly weird, but very appealing in a childish kind of way. What’s not to like about beautiful women and flying cows? In the same painting.

Laurence Anholt, Papa Chagall

His grandchildren come and see the great artist in his studio, and like children do, they insist on being told a story. And he tells them about his life, about his childhood in Russia, about how he met their grandmother and what happened in the war (WWII).

They are touching stories, and help you understand him and sympathise with how his life turned out. But no matter how hard it was, Papa Chagall has time for his grandchildren, and time for one more story.

Rather wonderful.

Families are where people love you

Jeanne Willis, ably assisted with lovely illustrations by Adrian Reynolds, mixes her families up in Upside Down Babies. Somehow the baby animals end up with the ‘wrong’ mummies, but that works, too. In some cases, anyway.

And then the world is put right again, even if some mums actually hang on to their ‘wrong’ babies. Very sweet, for all of us who have worried about separation.

Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds, Upside Down Babies

So, you’re different. Doesn’t mean you don’t belong, as very big mouse Enormouse finds out in Angie Morgan’s book. The others appear to be poking fun at him for his size, so he leaves to go and find the rats, who look just like him.

But the rats aren’t like him, and Enormouse decides to ‘go home’ again, where he has been badly missed. Home is where you belong, whatever your shape.

Angie Morgan, Enormouse

That could be in two homes, as Baby Bird finds in Two Nests by Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone. His parents fall in love, and Baby Bird is born and everything is fine.

No it’s not. Things get bad, until his parents do the sensible thing and build a second nest on another branch. Baby Bird has two homes, and two parents who love him.

Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone, Two Nests

Counting how much you love your Little Bear becomes hard work for Dad. Little Bear can’t sleep, because he needs to know his Dad loves him more than… They go on and on until Dad falls asleep. And suddenly Little Bear finds he can sleep as well. I Love You Too! is a sweet bedtime story by Michael Foreman. It’s as if you can’t ever have too many bedtime books. Especially about bears.

Michael Foreman, I Love You Too!

Ros Asquith is spot on – as always – in her It’s Not Fairy. The It’s Not Fairy has a hard job sorting everyone out. That’s everyone who moans and says ‘It’s Not Fair!’ and they needn’t be just children. Parents are as bad. Children squabble over ice cream treats, and parents disagree on who works the hardest.

Well, that would be the It’s Not Fairy. Eventually she falls into her own trap, because she just has so much to do.

Ros Asquith, It's Not Fairy