A fascinating music history that is diminished in its execution.

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MAMA MABLE'S ALL-GAL BIG BAND JAZZ EXTRAVAGANZA!

A look at music and feminism during the 1940s.

Research reveals that African American women made strides in entering the workforce during World War II, yet they suffered both racial and gender discrimination, funneling them into menial jobs. In this story set during the Great Migration, Sieg introduces female musicians of color who seem to be exceptions to this. The titular Mama Mable is a black bandleader who gathers “girls from near and far— / the bold, the bright, the brilliant” to make music. A little white girl narrates how they come to her community and spend a night playing music that would change the lives of all the women worrying about their menfolk and taking care of business in their absence. This rhyming picture book seems to be trying to show sisterhood through music and its power to cross barriers and heal a community. However, the juxtaposition of large, black Mama Mable and the little white girl combines with Mama Mable’s role as nurturer to summon uncomfortable echoes of the stereotypical mammy figure. Furthermore, the women Sieg bases her fictional characters on played music and faced discrimination, racism, and segregation while touring, all realities that are absent from this cheery text. One inspiration was Willie Mae Wong, who played in the all-women integrated band known as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. That was a real band that defied the segregation of their time; piecing together a fictional band inspired by different famous women from that era “to cheer up this good nation” does them and history a disservice.

A fascinating music history that is diminished in its execution. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1808-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A memorable life—a forgettable presentation.

I AM JACKIE ROBINSON

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Baseball’s No. 42 strikes out.

Even as a babe in his mother’s arms, Robinson is depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in this latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series. He narrates his childhood alongside cartoon panels that show him as an expert runner and thrower. Racism and poverty are also part of his growing up, along with lessons in sharing and courage. Incredibly, the Negro Leagues are not mentioned beyond a passing reference to “a black team” with a picture of the Kansas City Monarchs next to their team bus (still looking like a child in the illustration, Robinson whines, “Gross! Is this food or goo?”). In 1946, Branch Rickey signs him to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Robinson concludes his story with an exhortation to readers to be brave, strong and use their “power to do what’s right. / Use that power for a cause that you believe in.” Meltzer writes his inspirational biography as a first-person narrative, which risks being construed and used as an autobiography—which it is not. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations that show Robinson as a perpetual child fall sadly short of capturing his demeanor and prowess.

A memorable life—a forgettable presentation. (photographs, timeline, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4086-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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