Children's book review- AIDA by Leontyne Price, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

I bought a copy of Aida, a hardcover children's book by Leontyne Price and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, a while back at Half-Price Books as an art nerd/good dad impulse buy, but never read it.  Last night my six year old daughter fished it out of her tub o' books for some bedtime reading, and we nestled up and gave it a go.



Aida is a young Ethiopian princess who finds herself kidnapped by her kingdom's enemies in Egypt. There she finds herself reduced to the status of servant girl to the Pharoah's daughter, with whom she competes for the love of the gallant Egyptian soldier Radames. Aida tries to hide her royal lineage (which would certainly get her killed), pines for Radames, seeks a way to return to her homeland, and looks good doing it.

We both LOVED this book! Neither of us was familiar with this fable of love, dueling African princesses, and divided loyalties, but the telling of the tale by Leontyne Price was so brisk and emotional that it made the book a real page-turner. We were repeatedly pushed and pulled along by the narrative which we found alternately sad, inspiring, and frightening.

These sweet hieroglyph/comics accompany and enhance the prose
The hardworking illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon contributed to the book's excellent design, making it perfect for reading with a child. Each spread has a complete scene and story beat in prose on the left page beneath a 3 part hieroglyphic style comic that summarizes that page's narrative.
A lush painting of the scene's most important moment dominates the right page of each spread. This design lead us along as we read through each scene and discussed the illustrations and how they enhance the story.

Ummm... Hell no.
In the face of the horribly whitewashed Egypt of American pop culture and an image of Ethiopia that is synonymous with eternal poverty and famine, the highly stylized art of Aida, which is part Gustav Klimt and part Ernie Barnes, fights back with costumes and character designs that feel real and mythical at the same time. The Egyptian and Ethiopian royals, soldiers and citizens are rendered with an authentic African dignity and glory.

The story is told in simple, poetic language that doesn't talk down to the audience, but did not leave my daughter behind. Again, looking at and discussing the illustrations gave us time to clarify the story (and obsess about what might happen next). Parents might be afraid to read this tragic tale of love, war, and death with their children, but my six year old processed it okay. This story helped me teach my daughter about jealousy, patriotism, and tragedy in terms she could easily digest. If your child is not there yet, I suggest buying this book and reading it when he or she is ready.


Anyways, Aida, a hardcover children's book by Leontyne Price and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, gets my highest recommendation.
Peace,
-samax
Samax Amen draws people, places and things for fun and profit. He is the artist of many great comics you never heard of like Herman Heed, Champion of Children, The Brother and The World As You Know It. He even writes and draws his own comics, like Dare: The Adventures of Darius Davidson, Spontaneous, and Manchild when he gets around to it. Because making comics is hard and stuff, he started GhettoManga as a blog in 2006 and as a print magazine in 2008. 
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