Diego: Bigger Than Life

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
Diego: Bigger Than Life Book Poster Image
Lively free verse bio doesn't gloss over Rivera's appetites.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Only four reproductions of Rivera's paintings are included, although the glowing illustrations by Diaz represent Rivera's love of Mexico in an impressive statement. The prose poems refer to historical events and people such as a wet nurse that will have little meaning or appeal for readers younger than 12, although publishers age range is 9-12. The educational value is mostly in the glossary, the biographical overview, notes, and quotations.

Positive Messages

Rivera's life reveals a dedication to the arts, love and respect for his country, but also lots of womanizing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Diego Rivera expressed his love for the common worker of Mexico throughout his chosen medium, the mural. As a revolutionary, a member of the Communist Party, and unapologetic individualist he built a life based on his convictions but at the same time fathered children he did not support, abandoned several wives, and had multiple affairs.

Violence

Refers to Indians killed by Mexican soldiers, tells of fighting in the Mexican Revolution, blowing up trains and avoiding the firing squad.

Sex

Prose poems and historical notes refer to large number of affairs Rivera had, including the sister of one wife he was still married to; numerous children he fathered out of wedlock; his voracious love for women.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this prose account of Diego Rivera includes colorful descriptions of his love affairs, including one with the sister of one of his wives, and the unapologetic abandonment of some of his children and the deaths of others; young readers may be confused by the lighthearted representations. The poems and the artwork are vibrant and reveal a charismatic man, but will have little appeal for most readers of the publisher's recommended target ages, 9-12. Also, the prose poems don't distinguish between the stories Rivera fabricated and the facts of his life; readers will have to read the notes at the end to ascertain what was true and what was not.

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What's the story?

Told in first person free verse, Diego Rivera is portrayed as larger than life in stature, talent, and appetites. He discovered the desire and talent to be an artist at an early age, and at 19 left Mexico for Europe to study painting. Despite his disagreements with the Mexican government, he returned there after numerous love affairs in Europe, and having explored many styles of art he discovered muralism. Fighting as a revolutionary soldier or living a life of poverty, his love of the Mexican people was always his foremost subject. His politics were controversial outside of Mexico, but his paintings, especially his murals, made him famous worldwide. Includes notes, chronology, quotes, and a bibliography.

Is it any good?

For readers 12 and up, this is a vibrant introduction to an artist as well known for his Communist Party loyalties and convictions as for his richly colored murals. The prose poems are sophisticated and artsy, while the accompanying, glowing illustrations seem aimed at a younger age. This book would work best in a classroom setting, or accompanied by other books that reproduce more of Rivera's artwork for readers to enjoy and/or study. As a picture book for older readers, this is a luminous volume by Bernier-Grand that introduces budding artists to a fascinating art form.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the time period in which Rivera lived. His parents wanted different lives for him, which one of them prevailed?

  • Diego was very sure of himself from a young age. What do you think gave him such confidence?

  • What was a wet nurse, and why did families use or need them in earlier times?

  • What were some of the artists that Rivera studied with? What made him start painting murals? What do you like about his artwork?

Book details

For kids who love biographies and artsy reads

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