cover image Clara and Senor Frog

Clara and Senor Frog

Campbell Geeslin. Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83613-8

An arresting opening sentence-""Watching from the shadows, I see Mama being sawed in half""-signals a far from formulaic portrait of a young Mexican girl. Clara's mother works for a magician, but Clara is not impressed: ""Tricks, just tricks, I know them all."" When a fat, dumpy painter falls for and marries Clara's mother, Clara dubs him Senor Frog and imagines him with four legs and a long, sticky tongue. But Senor Frog-loosely modeled on Diego Rivera-proves to understand magic in an entirely new way, painting objects that look startlingly real, and Clara begins to trust him and to learn from him. Under his tutelage, she discovers that she loves to paint as well. ""When I married your mama I got two models for my paintings,"" says Senor, ""and one little artist, too."" Although Clara's mother is a dark-haired Mexican beauty, debut illustrator Sanchez emphasizes the notion that Senor Frog and Clara share something special by painting them both with Rivera-esque wide faces and soulful eyes. Packed with images of Mexican life-stucco buildings, tiled roofs and the white lilies that Rivera loved to paint-Sanchez's sunny gouaches echo the warmth and sabor of Geeslin's (Elenita) tale. Geeslin simultaneously unpacks the problem of getting used to a new parent, explores the life of an artist and evokes a culture new to many readers with skill and compassion. Ages 4-8.