Week-end Book Review: Colores de la vida by Cynthia Weill, featuring Folk Art by Artisans from Oaxaca, Mexico

Cynthia Weill, illustrated with folk art by Artisans from Oaxaca,
Colores de la vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish
Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.

Ages: 2+

Hypnotic. The word is hypnotic. A deep green lizard with a jolting yellow band around its neck leaps off the light green page – literally. Green / verde. Two white polar bears curve into the even whiter page, fine black lines of their fearsome claws made bold by the painter’s brush. White / blanco. From full-color spread to full-color spread, Cynthia Weill uses hypnotic photographs of folk art figures from artisans from Oaxaca to illustrate the beauty, art, and vibrancy of the Colores de la vida, colors of life, in an unforgettable book as much about the wonder of the ways we can imagine the world around us as about names of colors.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading ABeCedarios (2007) or Opuestos (2009) will recognize the stylized, vibrantly-painted Oaxacan figures arranged in sets of twos and threes on each spread of marbleized papers in the same hues. Like her previous two books in the highly successful “First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” series, Author Cynthia Weill brilliantly illustrates the theme of the book – colors – using folk art from other nations and culture. Using friendships formed and connections made during her time in Mexico as a Fullbright scholar, Weill employs artisans from across Oaxaca, both aspiring and well-known, to create the ceramic, tin, wood-carved and papier-mâché figures used.

Colores de la vida supplies minimal text, placing only a single word, the color name, printed in its namesake hue in English and Spanish. This lack of explanation or words, including what the animals actually are, reinforces the irresistible draw between viewer and animal figure. What are those extraordinary winged yellow figures heralding irrepressible glee as an egg hatches a third figure near them. A dragon? Another mythical figure? Each page captures a sense of wonder, of the vibrancy of color, the imagination of the artist, the name of the hue. Colors take life in this small picture book, perfect for small hands, in an astonishing pairing of visual intimacy and artistic joy that make this one of the most distinctive recent books on color – in English or otherwise.

Sara Hudson
April 2012

4 Responses to “Week-end Book Review: Colores de la vida by Cynthia Weill, featuring Folk Art by Artisans from Oaxaca, Mexico”

  1. PragmaticMom Says:

    Looks like a wonderful book! We are learning Spanish so I am excited to learn about it!

  2. Kim Riddle Says:

    What a great book! Thanks for showing it to us and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

  3. Cynthia Weill Says:

    Thank you for your lovely review. Had not seen it up to now. It’s feedback like this that keeps me working!

  4. Marjorie Says:

    I’m so glad you found it! :-)