Meet the Artist: Sophie Taeuber-Arp / Great Lives in Graphics: Frida Kahlo

Meet the Artist: Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Zoé Whitley and Lesley Barnes
Tate Publishing

In this, the latest in the Tate Meet the Artist series readers visit the vivid world of Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

As well as being an abstract artist, she was a designer, puppet-maker, dancer, architect and magazine editor whose husband once compared her to an expert bricklayer on account of ‘the way she brilliantly put together different coloured squares and rectangles to make her paintings.’ Readers are invited to experiment in their own way with this idea, imagining being a creative bricklayer and making a design on the page opposite one of the artist’s works.

That is just one of the opportunities children are offered as they read about the artist’s life and are introduced to her key themes and works of art. Inspired by these, youngsters can also create a candle holder, design a magazine cover for a new publication, experiment with puppet making or funky costume design and more. Indeed an entire class might like to try creating and moving to sound poems in the fashion of the Dada movement of which Taeuber-Arp was a part.

Both engaging and lots of fun, try offering this book to a child from around six. (The activities don’t require any materials not likely to be found at home or youngsters could suggest their own alternatives if the odd thing is not readily available.)

Great Lives in Graphics: Frida Kahlo
Button Books

New in the publisher’s infographics series for KS2 readers, this features one of the world’s most famous artists.

Born in Mexico City, Frida spent her childhood in a bright blue house built by her father where she grew up with three sisters. While she was very young the Mexican Revolution broke out; her father couldn’t get much work so her family were forced both to sell their furniture and to rent out rooms in the blue house so they could afford to live.

Indeed many sad things happened in Frida’s life. At age six she caught polio, spending months in bed, after which time her right leg became very thin and her foot stopped growing.

This didn’t stop her gaining admission to Mexico’s prestigious school where she and eight friends formed a clique known as Los Cachuchas. Members got up to all kinds of mischief including stealing food from famous artist, Diego Rivera. Another tragedy happened when Frida was eighteen. A bus she was travelling on was hit by a tram, shattering the bus and severely injuring Frida who was again stuck in bed for months.

It was during that time she began to draw; her mother had a special easel made that Frida could use from a lying position; and she started painting self-portraits. It’s partly on account of this, we read, that most of her paintings are quite small.

From her schooldays Frida had a crush on Diego and they met again two years after her accident. Despite the twenty year age gap the two fell in love, married and had a stormy relationship, divorcing and remarrying a year or so later.

If little else, most people know of Frida’s flamboyant style of dressing and adorning herself, as well as her love of nature which often features symbolically in the paintings.

All this and more is included in this enticing book. Youngsters interested in art/artists and those studying Frida Kahlo in primary school especially, will want to get hold of a copy.

If Music Be the Food of Love

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Heartsong
Kevin Crossley-Holland and Jane Ray
Orchard Books
Antonio Vivaldi and his music, and stories of orphan girls who grew up in an orphanage/music school, the Ospedale della Pietà (in Venice) were the inspiration for this powerfully told and beautifully illustrated book.
The young Vivaldi was director of music at the institution and wrote many pieces for the girls in his choir.

 

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One of these was the foundling child Laura whose name Jane Ray came upon on a visit to the Vivaldi Museum in a list, written in an old ledger, of the foundling babies left at the Ospedale della Pietà.
Abandoned as a baby, Laura who is mute, narrates her own story telling of her musical education, her daily duties,

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her friendships and how music, in particular her flute playing, finally becomes her redemption.

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Jane Ray’s evocative illustrations have a powerful haunting quality that resonates with the text: Crossley-Holland wastes not a single word as he gives voice to Laura – ‘In the watches of the night. Like a cradle, rocking. Sometimes I think I hear you. Do you love music too? / The drops of water falling onto my stone floor are minims and crotchets, quavers and semi-quavers. Like a song I almost think I know. Like a song you sang to me.’

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Flyaway
Lesley Barnes
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The young princess in this lift-the-flap story keeps a bird caged and every morning demands that it should sing for her. One day though, she forgets to lock the cage. The bird escapes and so begins a chase through the entire castle …

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and out into the grounds. There, the princess traps the bird in a net and so is happy once more. Not for long however, for she soon notices that the bird no longer sings. Realising that it longs to be free, she releases it once more and is later delighted to discover that her kindness is rewarded by not one, but a whole host of birds that come and sing for her every night.

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With stylish illustrations, ten things to find and a flap to lift on every spread (some revealing the encouraging “Fly, birdie, fly away!” to the escapee),

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to add to the enjoyment, this book for young readers and listeners embodies an important message about freedom.

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 Exciting event: Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition, Piccadilly, 23rd-29th October

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