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The World of Sor Juana Inés

by Pat Mora & illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

Age Range: 5 - 10

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-80643-1
Publisher: Knopf

This picture-book biography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz brings the great 17th-century poet and intellectual, revered throughout Latin America, to the attention of English-speaking children. Graced by Vidal’s (The Magic Bean Tree, not reviewed, etc.) exquisite gouache-and-watercolor illustrations, created with a magnifying glass and small brushes in the style of illuminated manuscripts, this is quite elegant. Graceful flowers, especially roses (the subject of one of Sor Juana’s best-known poems), link text and pictures. The red, flowered pattern of the cover and end papers picks up the vivid color of the young Juana’s dresses. A child prodigy who learned to read at the age of three, Juana studied with tutors in Mexico City, since girls were not allowed to attend the university. Invited to live as a lady-in-waiting in the viceroy’s palace, Juana read endlessly in its large library. A group of distinguished scholars convened to question her, and she was able to answer every one of their questions. “Yes, girls can do more than spin and sew. We can study and prove all we know,” said Juana. Becoming a nun gave her the quiet she needed to think and write. Her library became one of the largest in the Americas. There is a glossary of Spanish words and an author’s note; unfortunately, no sources of additional information (numerous Web sites are available) have been included. Nevertheless, this magnificent offering, interspersed with Spanish phrases, and filled with authentic details in its illustrations will be a welcome addition to most library collections. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)