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Casa Azul

When does reality end and fantasy begin? Maria and Victor are about to find out as they journey in search of their mother through a Mexico City populated by god-like wrestlers–the mighty El Corazón and his nemesis El Diablo–a blind guitarist named Old Big Eyes, and a talking monkey. Maria does not know it, but she and her brother may be the key to ending the pain and suffering that ferments inside a far more magical place, Casa Azul, the home of painter Frida Kahlo.

"Deftly merging fact and fiction, Hill takes te reader on a captivating adventure that quickly proves to be both enlightening and thrilling. Without obscuring the complexity of Kahlo's often-painful life, Hill vividly captures the magic of her imagery, encouraging a surprisingly rich understanding of the artist's enchanted vision of the world."–Daniel Tranberg, professor of painting, Cleveland Institute of Art

"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."-Michele Tremaine, Children's Literature

"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."-Janis Flint-Ferguson, KLIATT

Selected Works

1. Nonfiction
"Completely awesome"--Time "Hill tells the story of the birth of hip-hop with his own catchy rhythm, and Taylor’s illustrations bring out the enthusiasm and sense of community at the heart of this trend-setting sound."--New York Times Book Review
"Phenomenal."–Howard Zinn "Excellent."–New York Times Book Review
Harlem Stomp! is a wonderous new book: it celebrates a time, a place, an energy, and a people who refused to be held back and so they created a culture the entire world is still reeling from.”
--George C. Wolfe, writer, director, and producer of the Public Theater, NYC
3. Poetry
A picturebook poem describing the life of the slave potter Dave. Illustrated by Bryan Collier.
“Contemporary Poetry of New England offers a vivid portrait of a region, its colors and smells, its physical and emotional textures, and the people…. It presents a range of poets, few of whom would call themselves a “region poet,” although each has taken to heart in a private way Frost’s haunting dictum: ‘Locality gives art.’”
--from the Introduction
2. Fiction
A seventeen-year-old is plucked out of the Grande Armee to sit in place of Napoleon for a portrait of the Emperor by the artist David.
"I felt like a kid reading every word on the page! I liked the strains of "magic realism" coming through in Frida's house! Children will relate to this very much! The story is charming and reads like a thriller." –Margarita Aguilar, Assisant Curator, El Museo del Barrio
4. Middle Grade Series
These kids love extreme sports--snowboarding, skateboarding, rock climbing, wake boarding--and are ready to fight when the right to do their sport is threatened.