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I, Juan de Pareja

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,892 ratings  ·  444 reviews
Told through the eyes of Velazquez'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. ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 1st 1987 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published June 1st 1965)
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Nichole Sonlight homeschool curriculum recommends this book as a read aloud for grades 6-8.

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  7,892 ratings  ·  444 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 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
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was a nice quick read. I liked that it was told in the narration of the slave Juan de Pareja. The author gave him a sad but happy life, with what little is known about him and his Master, Spanish painter Diego Velazquez of the 17th c. Pareja meets good people that want to help him throughout his life journey. Juan has a good heart and loves his Master and Mistress, which turn out to be a blessing to him bc they are good hearted people that actually treat him well almost like a family member, ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
A tremendous book. Though intended for children, it is the work of a mature writer, showing depth and nuance.

There are two odd errors that, to my knowledge, have never been corrected in the half century since publication: p.44 "an access of enthusiasm" should be "an excess" and p.66 "weasle-eyed" should be "weasel-eyed." Of course, these do nothing to diminish the greatness of the book.

I see that some editions have taken the image of Juan with King Philip that was originally on the back of the d
May 24, 2012 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
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
Jul 08, 2014 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
Jan 03, 2013 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
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 26, 2011 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
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not only is this an enjoyable book that teaches much about history, and art, and courage, honor, & friendship, but it's more.

This is also an important book, very relevant right now as African-Americans are giving voice to the feeling many have that they are still not truly free.

It might not be to every child's taste, but I highly recommend it to every homeschooling family and at least one classroom in every Middle School.

More background, quotations, and discussions in the Children's Books group
Dec 31, 2015 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
Newbery Medal Winner--1966

This started off slow, but by the end I was surprisingly emotionally invested in Juan, his kind master Diego, and their families. The fact that this is based on real people (though little is actually known about their lives other than their names and that they were painters, along with a few other tidbits included in the story) made it even more interesting. I think I would have enjoyed it more had there been more dialogue, but it's told like an autobiography so there's
Mar 30, 2013 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 08, 2012 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
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 22, 2011 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
Kellyn Roth
My mom made me read this for school for a study of Velasquez. Then she went on to make me write a review about it. Therefore, I'm a little prejudiced against it, and to be honest, it's really not the great book either.

To begin with, the narrator, Juan de Pareja, was pretty boring. He just solemnly summarizes everything up almost childishly (even when he's forty, he doesn't mature at all, although I admit that could be historically accurate based on the way slaves were raised to be back then). It
Benjamin Thomas
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
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Yet another book I finished last spring and didn't review. I don't have a lot to say about this story; many of the details have been lost in the months since I read it. However, I can leave you with two things that stuck with me:

1. I love the painting of Juan de Pareja. It's warm and intimate and seems to reveal a gentleness about the subject ... and possibly the relationship between painter and subject.

2. Despite the feelings the painting evokes, there is little to nothing known about the act
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I love books based on historical events, but I always struggle with how "true" the stories are. This is an engaging and well-written book, and my favourite part is the afterword by the author, in which she tells you exactly what is true and what isn't. I was able to satisfy my curiosity by exploring further and examining paintings, which was really interesting. ...more
Alex Sanchez
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Engaging characters and a fast moving story - informative, too.
Faith Hough
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just beautiful. Probably my favorite book I've read this year, in large part because it delves unsentimentally but gorgeously into two things I love: art and faith. ...more
Eric Frenck
Jun 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery
I did enjoy this book, but I can’t deny its problematic & dated content. The conflicts and complications are interesting and the characters are well-developed with the glaring exception being the eponymous character of Pareja. Quite simply, the book paints him as a “good” slave and glosses over the horrors slaves experienced daily. He only truly suffers at the hand of a “gypsy” who brings him to his new master. When informed he may not pursue his heart’s desire of painting, he accepts it without ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
My sweet 12-year-old brought this to me one day, explaining that she bought it at her school bookstore, and "it looked like something you would like." I have to be honest--I thought it looked kind of boring by the cover, and I wasn't sure I would be interested. But it's a sweet, beautiful little gem! I learned a lot about Velazquez, as well as his assistant Juan de Pareja. It was fascinating! Especially when I looked at the paintings the book talks about...I even got teary at the end! I don't of ...more
Jun 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was not expecting much from this book to be honest, just reading it to prep for teaching it to 7th graders in the fall. That being said, it greatly surprised me and I will now recommend it to everyone. It is surprisingly well written, with beautiful descriptive language befitting a book in the perspective of an artist. In describing characters she does a wonderful job of “showing, not telling”, and there are several characters I feel deeply in love with. I laughed out loud on several occasions ...more
This is a fictionalize story of Juan de Pareja, the slave assistant to the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. The 11-year-old and I read this to complement our Age of Enlightenment history lesson. It was a very good read. I wonder, though, how much of it is true and am concerned it is a romantized version of a slave-master narrative. Velazquez's portrait of de Pareja is stunning, and I'd like to believe they had a very kind and loving companionship. ...more
Newbery Winner 1966

This is a remarkable book. It tells the story of the slave Juan de Pareja (1606-1670), who was inherited by the famous Spanish painter Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). Pareja was Velazquez's assistant in the studio for most of his life and was later was freed. He also became a painter in his own right, though not many paintings survive. There are few facts of their lives, yet with enormous skill Elizabeth Borton de Trevino re-imagined what is missing into a beautiful, tender, fait
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I REALLY liked this book. A very good piece of historical fiction which gave a lot of insight into the slave trade and the art scene in 17th century Spain
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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

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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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