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I, Juan de Pareja
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I, Juan de Pareja

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,701 Ratings  ·  276 Reviews
Told through the eyes of Velasquez's slave and assistant, this vibrant novel depicts both the beauty and the cruelty of 17th century Spain and tells the story of Juan, who was born a slave and died a respected artist.

Latino Interest.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 1st 1987 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published 1965)
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Nichole Sonlight homeschool curriculum recommends this book as a read aloud for grades 6-8.
The Giver by Lois LowryHoles by Louis SacharA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Most Deserving Newbery
62nd out of 102 books — 2,512 voters
The Giver by Lois LowryA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleHoles by Louis SacharNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Newbery Medal Winner Books
66th out of 95 books — 299 voters

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Community Reviews

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**3.5 stars**

Juan de Pareja's portrait by Velázquez is my favorite painting (every time I see it, it makes me cry) so it was with trepidation and excitement that I started this audio.

The book follows the story of Juan de Pareja and his life as the slave of Diego de Velázquez, the leading painter in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. Historically, we know little of their life except what is portrayed in the paintings and important acts that were documented like marriages and deaths. The author
I gave this book 5 stars for several reasons. The first of which probably has more to do with my personal tastes, I have studied art history throughout high school and college, and am fascinated by the subject. The next reason is that there was never a dull moment. The book kept me wanting to read, which is always a sign of a good book. The story was very touching, and I found myself relating to and sympathizing with the main character on several levels. The character development was astounding. ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
I enjoy books about real people from long ago, though there is often not enough info to create a biography. This book is from a perspective of a black slave of Diego Velazquez. While Velazquez' paintings are not as luminescent as those I remember seeing while reading "Girl With a Pearl Earring" about Vermeer, I thought the characters created were admirable and worth learning about. Because they were both historical fiction from the perspective of the servant of famous painters, I couldn't help c ...more
May 25, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book for young readers, with the caveat that Borton's vocabulary will challenge many.

This is fiction, not biography. Told first person through Juan's eyes, this story of himself and the seventeenth century Spanish painter Diego Velazquez develops in a warm and realistic manner. It betrays it 1965 origin by not sufficiently projecting then current American attitudes toward race and slavery unto its main characters. Yet, in her way, Borton does not deny or misrepresent.

The book's New
Sep 12, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-for-the-kids
I read this aloud to the kids (ages 8 and 6) and we all enjoyed it - they usually color while I read, but they ask questions so I know they are listening most of the time. The language was a bit over their heads - even a few words I was unsure of - but the story was very interesting.
This is juvenile historical fiction about Diego Velazquez (the painter) and his slave, Juan de Pareja. I love reading stories about real people and events to the kids, even if they are fictionalized, because then we
Jul 14, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile
One of my summer reading goals was to read three Newbery Medal winning books that I hadn't before. I brought three home from the library at random, and this was one of them. I can understand why it won the Newbery Medal. It's a beautiful and well-written piece of historical fiction, with luminescent characters and an engaging story line. I can also see why it's not popular with today's young readers. Unfortunately, historical fiction seems to have really fallen out of favor with the readers of t ...more
May 02, 2013 Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, audio
This book was interesting, and I enjoyed it as I was listening to the audiobook (which disappointed me a bit. I think the narrator should have been male.) But it is not a favorite and I would not really recommend it to any of the kids I know unless they had a particular interest in art. There was not a lot that actually happened, and the time span of decades made it difficult to connect with the characters sometimes.

Perhaps it was the fault of the audiobook narrator at times, but in general I fe
Benjamin Thomas
Dec 18, 2013 Benjamin Thomas rated it really liked it
Found this book on my shelves, left over from the days when we home-schooled our children. It's a nice historical fiction/biography for young people and I really enjoyed delving into a time and subject matter that I knew so little about.

Not all that much, apparently, is really known about the Spanish painter, Diego Velazquez, but his influence on art and artistic style is profound. This is the story of a slave, Juan de Pareja, who comes into the household of the great painter and becomes a stude
Feb 21, 2013 Jinky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I totally see why this won the Newbery. From page one I was enchanted. It had a calming feel to the read. An autobiographical fiction that read so vividly that I felt as if I was there and liked this 17th century setting. I felt honored getting to know the wonderful Spaniard painter, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, and his slave, Juan de Pareja. The truth and fiction meshed so well that everything was believable and in my head what was told was how it happened. What a thrill it was to be p ...more
May 20, 2012 MizLaT rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The first half of the seventeenth century was brilliant with names that still shine with the luster of courage, art, science, and glory...Rubens and Van Dyke were painting in the Low Countries: Galileo, Newton, and Harvey were contributing scientific knowledge that would turn conceptions of the material world into new channels.." (from Elizabeth Borton de Trevino's forward)

So along comes Juan de Pareja, a humble, sometimes mistreated slave who changes masters and cities of residence until fina
Dec 31, 2015 Kathi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newbery
This factionalized biography is the saga of Juan de Pareja, a multiracial slave born in the 1600’s. After Juan enjoys a loving, easy childhood, both Pareja’s mother and his owner die, and he is bequeathed to the artist Diego Velazquez. Pareja must endure terrors with an evil slave driver to travel to the home of the painter; once he arrives, however, through Juan’s diligence, intelligence, and loyalty, he becomes Velasquez’s personal assistant and ultimately, his friend.

The Newbery Award winner
Oct 11, 2014 D.C. rated it it was ok
Shelves: newberies
A slow-moving, typical Newbery. I'm starting to get a hunch that some of these slow-moving, typical Newberies were chosen because of the beauty of the writing. That's most likely the case with Juan, who's narration is nice, with some great descriptions of art, but quite matter-of-fact. It isn't as much a book about art then a book about the adventure of life and helping your friends along the way. Also, it could have ended way earlier than it did, and I tend to feel inclined to subtract a star o ...more
Katharine Ott
"I, Juan de Pareja, was born into slavery early in the seventeenth century." I have never yet been disappointed with a winner of the ALA Newbery Medal and "I, Juan de Pareja," the 1966 winner by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino kept my string intact. With expressive descriptions of people and places, de Trevino introduces us to "a Europe yeasty with new ideas" and towns "bathed in a golden light."

Juan is a slave of African descent, and following the fever death of his mistress in Seville, he becomes
Jan 15, 2012 Kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-award
When the great Velázquez was painting his masterpieces at the Spanish court in the seventeenth century, his colors were expertly mixed and his canvases carefully prepared by his slave, Juan de Pareja. This is the story of Juan and how a slave boy becomes friend, artist and companion through his relationship with Velazquez one of the world's famous painters.
Through Juan’s eyes the reader sees Velázquez’s delightful family, his working habits and the character of the man, his relations with the
Jul 08, 2012 K. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: interested in YA multicultural books, faith, courage, gratitude
Recommended to K. by: JoDean
Contender for 12/13 read aloud. I would say "yes" on this one.

Despite probable great liberties taken with history (including the wife of Velazquez dying before her husband) this was a great little book.

Really, it was unexpected. This man, Juan de Pareja, was the inherited (from an Aunt?) slave of a great Spanish painter. This book portrays him as a deeply religious, humane, compassionate and talented person who is grateful for his life, despite his slavery.

I don't know that I've ever read a b
Apr 24, 2013 Gale rated it liked it

Trevino's 1966 Newbery winner may seem a sleeper by today's standards of violence and adult themes in YA literature. Nevertheless, I consider it an excellent representative for both Biography and Historical Fiction genres. Careful research yields authentic 17th century detail as Trevnio recreates the Baroque court of Spain, from the viewpoint of the royal painter, Diego Velasquez, and his faithful Black slave, Juan de Pareja.

Narrated in the first person by
Jul 22, 2011 Jill rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-medal
I liked this book, and when I researched a few of the paintings that are described I liked it even more. What an interesting take on a life story. Partly true, partly imagined and yet plausible.

"In this I was prophetic, or intuitive; call it what you will, I have often had these flashes of news in advance of their happening."

"I do not remember much more of that long time away from Spain. Most of the Italian towns have blurred together and become one in my memory. They were beautiful, with solid
The other John
This is enjoyable biography of a noble and compassionate man, a slave who overcame the obstacles in his life to become a great painter. Unfortunately, it's not true. Well, I should say it's based on reality, but like the author herself says, "very little, for certain is known about [Juan de Pareja]." What is known is that Sr. Pareja was a slave, and was inherited by the great Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. We also know that Sr. Pareja became a painter, despite the fact that a slave was forbidde ...more
Matthew Mitchell
Apr 27, 2015 Matthew Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Excellent historical fiction. A well-told story of interesting figures in art history. A great way of learning culture and context, too. I'm glad I got to read it to my kids.
This is an interesting fictionalization of an untold story. An odd quirk of Spanish law allowed slaves to be craftsmen, but not creative artists in any medium. Thus Juanico, slave to the great painter Velasquez, is limited by law to helping him to prepare canvases and mix his paints. His dream, though, is to become an actual artist, like the apprentices that Velasquez teaches. Oddly, in this portrayal, he doesn't ever dream of freedom. The author permits another slave character to express those ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Jacque rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Middle school to adult
Wonderful fictionalized story of the relationship between real life 17th Century characters: Spanish artist Velazquez and his slave, assistant, and friend, Juan de Pareja.

There is so much packed into this short, 200 page read: It is rich in art history, cultural history, actual events, actual artwork now hanging in musueums around the world, character growth, relationships, including slave/master relationships, Royal court customs, health practices of the time, religious practices, beautiful quo
Benji Martin
Sep 19, 2015 Benji Martin rated it liked it
This one was definitely a harder Newbery winner to get through. Not a whole lot happens, and it takes a long time for what does happen to get started. Plus, something about a book by a white lady about a black man and how tolerable (you might even say nice) his slavery was, just didn’t set that well with me. Juan even implies at one point, that he’s glad he’s a slave because life isn’t that good for a black boy on the streets. Needless to say, that was all kind of problematic for me. It gave me ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Peggy rated it really liked it
Juan de Pareja was born a slave in 17th century Spain. When his mistress died, he was sent with the rest of her goods to her nephew, the painter Diego Velasquez. Despite their differences in station, the two men become friends, and eventually Juan becomes an artist in his own right, despite it being illegal to teach a slave any of the arts. Very interesting story, with a lot of detail about life in Spain and Italy during that time.
Sep 27, 2011 Melanie rated it it was amazing
This may have been my first introduction to art history. I fell in love with everything about it. I just really loved that everyone has a story, that the people who made all those old paintings were real. They loved other people, had friendships and heartbreak. And when I went to the Met and saw the painting of Juan de Pareja, I was just so happy. Anyway, great book.
Jun 09, 2015 Lois rated it it was amazing
The story of Juan de Pareja and Diego Valezquez as put forth in this book is a beautiful one. Pareja is a loyal, intelligent, proud and tender man who finds himself both enslaved and befriended of the greatest painter in 17th century Europe. Pareja acknowledges slavery as unjust, but rather than resenting his state as a slave he chooses to serve his master with loyalty and diligence.

Diego Velazquez has immense aptitude for seeing the inner qualities of people and replicating them in his paintin
Georgia Herod
Jan 01, 2015 Georgia Herod rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Burton de Trevino, a Newbery Medal book, published in 1965. A friend had sent a box of books for my grand girls, with this in it. I've heard of it, but never read it. It's probably written for 5th-8th graders, but it is a quite sophisticated historical novel set in 17th century Spain and Italy, with Juan Pareja as the slave to Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, outstanding portraitist. It's beautifully written, rich in imagery, depth in cha ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Hector rated it really liked it
Hardly a classic anymore; my students resented the fact that people had slaves ... in the middle ages! nevertheless, they saw that in many cases slaves were mere servants. just as America has changed the way the world sees culture, so have our students learned to be gut reactionaries on issues that make them feel squishy. You don't eliminate uncomfortable subjects from our literature -- I know,many people do -- we teach others to appreciate contexts of other eras without squirming. In the end th ...more
Ruth E.
Aug 02, 2014 Ruth E. rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery
1966 Nebery winnr - author/illustrator Elizabeth Borton deTrevino- The story of Juan de Pareja, who was born a slave and given to his first misstress's nephew, who was the great Spanish artist, Velazquez. This is the story of their lives together as master and slave. How they becam companions and endedd with them being equals and friends. Juan paints secretly as it is against the law for slaves to paint. He is given his freedom and marries Llolis his misstress's slave who is also given her freed ...more
Anita Williamson
Feb 10, 2014 Anita Williamson rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and would probably give it 3 1/2 stars. I thought the author was very respectful of Velazquez and showed him to be a true man of honor. Hopefully he was that in real life. I always thought artists were eccentric geniuses that couldn't hold jobs, nor be dependable or loyal. If the book was an accurate representation then Velasquez was indeed all that.

I liked the idea of telling the story through the slave. I was touched with the way the master slave relationship was handled. T
"I, Juan de Pareja" is about a black slave boy born in Seville, Spain in 1607, who belongs to a wealthy older woman. His mother, also owned by the woman, died when he was a boy. His mistress treats him well and teaches him the alphabet and how to write letters. Sadly she and the rest of the household die from the plague. Juan is sent to live with the woman’s nephew, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (known predominantly as Velazquez in the book), a painter in Madrid. Juan longs to paint, but ...more
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Elizabeth Borton de Treviño was the highly acclaimed author of many books for young people. Born in California, it was her move to Mexico in the 1930s that inspired many of her books, including El Güero: A True Adventure Story and Leona: A Love Story. She won the Newbery Medal in 1966 for I, Juan de Pareja.

Elizabeth was born in Bakersfield, California, the daughter of attorney Fred Ellsworth Borto
More about Elizabeth Borton de Treviño...

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“Art should be truth; and truth, unadorned, unsentimentalized, is beauty.” 7 likes
“He accorded his art the highest respect, that of never taking it for granted. Always, as long as he lived, he tried to learn more, in order to serve it better.” 3 likes
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