A fascinating music history that is diminished in its execution.


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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Contemplative children will spend hours on each page, noticing such subtleties as reappearing animals and the slowly rising...


A wordless picture book both soothing and gently humorous.

The cover displays the template that will appear throughout: black pages with stylized, silvery, moonlit flora and fauna, except where the flashlight’s glow shows the colors of objects as they appear in full-spectrum light. That triangular beam will reveal such things as a beaver in a pond, bats in the sky, mice munching on apples and a set of colorful Tibetan prayer flags suspended between two woodland trees. Although rendered in gouache, the art resembles a scratch painting, with myriad tiny plants and animals inscribed into the black background, starting with captivating endpapers. On the title page, an androgynous child in a tent lies propped on elbows, reading a book by flashlight. Because there is no text, the sets of double-page spreads that follow initially leave room for interpretation as to whether one child or two are next seen happily perusing the night woods, flashlight in hand. No matter; the important elements are the amazing details in the art, the funny twist at the end and the ability of the author-illustrator to create a dark night world utterly devoid of threat.

Contemplative children will spend hours on each page, noticing such subtleties as reappearing animals and the slowly rising moon over the course of one night in the forest. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Perhaps best enjoyed by grandmothers.


A little girl’s visit with her grandmother is filled with dancing from the moment the door opens at her New York City apartment.

A former prima ballerina, Grand Jeté passes her love of ballet to her granddaughter as they arabesque to make lunch and plié before eating. Then they do their hair and makeup, topping it off with their special holiday outfits. Together they visit Grand Jeté’s friends backstage at Lincoln Center. Finally, they take their seats and the curtain rises on The Nutcracker. Throughout the performance, Grand Jeté fondly remembers when she used to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. When the curtain closes, the duo waltzes away, Grand Jeté telling the little girl that she too could be a ballerina one day. Written by a former prima ballerina, this seasonal book puts the emphasis on the grandmother. Although the little girl narrates the story, it is Grand Jeté who experiences the emotional arc. The brief text moves the story along, only occasionally stumbling during transitions. The detailed illustrations, featuring the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker costumes and sets, are joyous and bubbly. Although there is a handful of diverse characters in the background, nearly all humans present White, including the main characters. Families preparing to see The Nutcracker for the first time may appreciate the very brief summary of the ballet included within the story. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Perhaps best enjoyed by grandmothers. (glossary, author’s note) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-239202-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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