Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Review - Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Diego: Bigger Than Life
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
David Diaz, Illustrator
Marshall Cavendish Children's
This biography of Diego Rivera is written as a series of poems with 14 full-sized illustrations interspersed. 3 of the illustrations are actually reproductions of Diego's work. Almost every poem includes a small illustration that acts as a summary. The penultimate poem, Still Lifes, features Deigo's ode to Frida Kahlo, titled The Watermelons. The poems are short and appear as visual poetry not so much the language or rhythm from the words. Immediately following the poetry is The True Life of Diego Rivera and it's written in expository text. The book also includes a glossary, a chronology and notes.
We meet Diego at the age of 1 1/2 when a tragedy forces his parents to send him away. He returns home at 4 and draws on everything. He enters an artist's school and wins a scholarship to travel to Spain. At 19 Diego enters a self-induced battle over whether to pursue art paid for by patrons or paint what his heart desired. We follow Diego through many loves and losses including his relationship with the esteemed Frida Kahlo.
"He told me to be whatever I want to be." (13) The first person narration pulls you into the story while Diaz's illustrations keep you there. Bernier-Grand's poems give you succinct slices into Diego's life and what influenced his art. Although she only touches briefly on Diego's love life, it might be enough to move this book towards the mature 7th or 8th grader. The expository text coupled with the chronology provide a clearer, more complete picture of Diego Rivera but I think an additional biography would be needed for students who want to focus on this artist for a report.
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand website has some teacher activities for her books including Diego: Bigger Than Life.
Booklist Online starred review for Diego: Bigger Than Life