- Megan Bingham
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón had many, many pets. She had Bonito the parrot who, like Frida, was as colorful as the house she lived in on 247 Londres Street in the city of Coyoacán, Mexico. In La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo was inspired by her animalitos to create beautiful and imaginative pieces of modern art.
Her pet fawn Granizo had watchful eyes, just like Frida. Growing up, Frida was always with her father, a German-Hungarian photographer who taught her to look at the world with eager eyes. He even taught her how to paint finishing touches on his photographs—she loved the small brushes and beautiful colors. Like her shiny, black cat, Frida often was playful, until she was six when she contracted polio. Confined to her bed, little Frida used her breath to make mist on her window, using her finger as a brush. She sometimes would draw a door, letting her imagination carry her away to far away places.
When Frida was 18, she was confined to her bed once again after a terrible bus accident. But, like her eagle Gertrudis, Frida used her imagination to fly high. "Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?" Her mother made her a special easel and hung a mirror over her canopy bed so she could paint. Frida also had two turkeys and three dogs! Her Xolo dogs were the same breed that ran and hunted with the Aztecs hundreds of years earlier, which Frida saw as a reflection of her heritage of which she was very proud. When her two spider monkeys Fulang Chang and Caimito del Guayabal were being good, she would hold them like babies. When they were bad, they would steal socks and fruit!
When Frida was older, living at La Casa Azul, the animalitos played all day on a pyramid her artist husband Diego Rivera made. When she was painting, the pets would keep her company. While Bonito sang, the Xolo dogs barked, and the turkeys danced, Frida painted. She was never alone at La Casa Azul—she had the animalitos and herself, and she painted both! Today, you can visit La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, which has been turned into a museum for Frida. You may just see an animal or two jump from the pyramid in the courtyard or hear the song of a bird!
Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos is a 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book for John Parra's beautiful illustrations. Although Frida did not get most of her famous pets until she was an adult, author Monica Brown chose to write about Frida's pets as a way of highlighting Frida's creativity and imagination. Between 1926 and 1954, Frida Kahlo painted more than two hundred paintings. Her gift has inspired many artists, especially those willing to open their mind to the brilliance of her curious and imaginative eye. Where would Frida Kahlo be without her animalitos?