Monday, July 20, 2015

Newbery Review: I, Juan de Pajera by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño (1966 Medal Winner)

I, Juan de Pareja thoughtfully tells the true story of a half-African slave who worked for the artist Diego Velázquez. One can tell the author spent careful time on recreating not only the details of Juan's tale, but also in bringing his world to life.

The story moves very slowly with a sometimes heavier vocabulary that escapes age category placement, which is probably why the book isn't as popular as it deserves, but a patient reader will be rewarded. The book is full of diversity, history, and personal development, relaying the story of the man behind one of Velázquez's most famous paintings, which can be seen in New York.

(portrait of Juan de Pajera by Velázquez)

The book will appeal mostly to upper primary and middle school students with an itch for culture and history who can handle all of the foreign names and the older language-dialogue. 

Rating: Three and a half stars

Recommended reading age: 11+

Content for parents: The main character is illegitimate and considers this early on in the story. The treatment of slaves is discussed, but not in depth. 

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Reviews, check out Shannon Messenger's blog here!


  1. I hadn't heard about this book before. Thanks for telling me about it. I'll try to check it out.