cover image A LIBRARY FOR JUANA: The World of Sor Juana Inés

A LIBRARY FOR JUANA: The World of Sor Juana Inés

Pat Mora, , illus. by Beatriz Vidal. . Knopf, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-80643-8

Mora (Tomás and the Library Lady) concisely traces the rise of spirited Juana Inés from inquisitive youngster to a 17th-century Mexican scholar. Insatiably curious Juana, age three, follows her older sister to school and asks to join the class. Mora laces her narrative with lively anecdotes, as when the determined Juana shows up for dinner dressed as a boy after her mother announces that only boys can attend university. At 10, the girl's mother sends her to live with family in Mexico City, and by age 15, Juana takes up residence in the viceroy's palace there, as a lady-in-waiting. Vidal's (Rainbow Crow) meticulously detailed, small-scale watercolor-and-gouache art details the bustling city as well as the finery of the palatial residence, where Juana immerses herself in the library and becomes an accomplished writer of poems, plays and songs. A standout spread shows Juana flanked by 40 scholars assembled by the viceroy at a giant round table; small insets depict the topics of their quiz (a harp, a caduceus, the planets in orbit around the sun). The narrative, unfortunately, appears in an uncommonly small font, but this story of persistence and pioneering will inspire youngsters. Even with the book's rather abrupt ending, the heroine's journey, coupled with Vidal's depiction of expressive faces and lovely renderings of flowers that spill from the borders of the pictures make for a memorable volume. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)