Nutcracker aficionados can enjoy a background overture to a Christmas classic.



From Russia with battling mice and waltzing flowers.

In the early 20th century, three brothers from Utah caught dancing fever and went on to join the vaudeville circuit, performing all across America. One of the brothers went on to Portland, Oregon, to start a ballet school and, following the advice of a Russian émigré conductor, used music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker to choreograph dances for his students. Two of the three siblings found themselves in San Francisco in 1944 in search of a big-ticket number for the San Francisco Ballet. Everyone helped on the production, but it was not until 1949, with all three brothers working together, that The Nutcracker as an annual Christmas tradition began. Barton writes with an easygoing, folksy style with, perhaps, an overreliance on the phrase “the whole shebang.” Though Barton ably does here what he did for the inventor subjects of Sibert honoree The Day-Glo Brothers, illustrated by Tony Persiani (2009), balletomanes will regret that he doesn’t go into greater detail about the actual San Francisco Ballet production. Gendron’s oil paintings present scenes from the lives of the brothers and from the staging of the ballet. A swirling ribbon is an appropriate ongoing motif, but too often the dancers appear in stiff, cardboard poses.

Nutcracker aficionados can enjoy a background overture to a Christmas classic. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, timeline, summary, photographs, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2151-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.


From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Amusing but a little off tempo.


It’s important to hit all the right notes.

A tan-skinned musical composer with puffy black hair is busy at work on his next musical masterpiece when Half Note, a music symbol denoting two beats, feels unappreciated. Half Note is jealous of the more commonly used Quarter Note (one beat) and Eighth Note. Although the other musical symbols attempt to calm and comfort Half Note, she decides to run away. The next day, Composer needs Half Note and panics when he realizes that she’s gone. The other notes and musical symbols try to find her, but it’s only when they try to play her favorite song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” without her—with terrible results—that she comes running back. The story’s humor—which is largely based on “dad joke” puns—is completely dependent on readers’ musical knowledge. The artwork, a mix of acrylic and colored pencil, attempts to add some allegrezza to the piece, and while it’s not unsuccessful, it’s facing an uphill battle. Music teachers and musically minded caregivers may find some value in this story, but it will likely be too specialized for general readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Amusing but a little off tempo. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-64567-631-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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