cover image Frida Maria: A Story of the Old Southwest

Frida Maria: A Story of the Old Southwest

Deborah Nourse Lattimore. Browndeer Press, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-276636-8

Frida Maria, a girl of the Old Southwest, is decidedly a tomboy: though she dutifully attends to lessons in sewing and cooking, she desires only to ride her uncle's horse, Diablo, in the upcoming fiesta. At the celebration, Tio Narizo makes a rash racing bet with a rival but is too slow-moving even to take his mount. Frida Maria impulsively leaps into the saddle and wins both the race and her very proper mother's approval. The appeal of Lattimore's spunky protagonist is dimmed by the narrative, which is both predictable and, in its specifics, highly contrived; the ending, in particular, rests on a series of improbable events. (An author's note somewhat disingenuously nods at the latter flaw: ``Although it is not likely that a young girl would have raced with the alcades . . . it is not entirely impossible.'') The brightly colored, fresco-like paintings are festive and evocative of time and place; however, even the elaborate double-gatefold spread at the end has a static, frozen quality that accentuates the overall feeling of artifice. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)