An exuberant read-aloud extolling the glory of dance and snow days.

THE SNOW DANCER

A nighttime snowfall leads to a joyful snow-day dance.

Stepping out into the hushed silence of a snow day, Sofia pulls on a mustard-yellow coat and smooshes a matching cap over her straight, black hair. The undisturbed snow becomes her blank canvas for an exuberant snow-day ballet full of sound and life as she “crinch crunches” and “slish slusssssssssssshes” on the empty soccer field. But her solitary dance comes to an abrupt end when the field is overtaken by a horde of neighborhood children. Amid the chaos, one tiny, brown-skinned child in pigtails and fairy wings sees Sofia’s crestfallen expression, which leads to willowy Sofia’s teaching the little one to be a snow dancer too. Together, the new friends execute an impromptu pas de deux that transitions into an energetic group snowball fight until it’s time to go home. The lyrical narrative plays with auditory dynamics from the soft beginning through the jubilant, shout-filled climax to the cozy, quiet ending. The painterly illustrations use strong shapes and swooping linework that echoes Sofia’s balletic dancing. Many pages depict multiple Sofias, creating an animationlike effect that evokes movement. Sofia’s yellow-clad figure standing out against the snowy white pages and the sounds she makes in the new snow create a dance-filled nod to Ezra Jack Keats’ classic The Snowy Day (1962). (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 21.4% of actual size.)

An exuberant read-aloud extolling the glory of dance and snow days. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9317-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

LET'S DANCE!

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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