SECOND BANANA

The Food Is Fun Healthy Eating Good Nutrition Pageant is great…unless you are the Second Banana.

All 15 of Mrs. Millet’s students are excited each year for the pageant. Each gets to play a different healthy food, but this year there are 16 students. When everyone is assigned a role, it turns out there will be two bananas. The narrator is not pleased. This kid wants to be the only banana. Mrs. Millet is consoling, but she doesn’t understand. And the little Second Banana’s family doesn’t even sympathize—they just make banana puns. The class rehearses all month long, and throughout, the Second Banana fumes at getting only half a line and half as much time on stage! Two days before the pageant, the kid realizes that First Banana doesn’t seem happy either. It turns out First Banana doesn’t want to be onstage at all. Second Banana tries to cheer up First, but to no avail. Thinking fast, the narrator has a bright idea for a new show finale and ends up with a new friend. Thornburgh’s school story about making the best of a less-than-optimal situation and showing kindness and empathy for a new friend will ap-peel (sorry) to young readers and listeners, who will easily identify. Berube’s expressive cartoons are a good match—those food costumes are pretty funny. Both bananas have pale skin, Mrs. Millet is a woman of color, and the rest of the class is diverse and includes one child who uses a wheelchair. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.3-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 83.5% of actual size.)

No rotten bananas here. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4234-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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