Set in the diverse urban neighborhood introduced by Paula Yoo and Ng-Benitez in Lily’s New Home and Want to Play (both 2016), this newest entry focuses on Henry, a would-be rock-star drummer.
Henry’s mother needs quiet to work, so Henry takes a single drum to the front stoop. An intentionally diverse cast of characters stop playing jump rope to freeze dance. Henry is white. Lily is dark-skinned with curly hair. Mei’s, Padma’s, and Pablo’s names suggest ethnically diverse backgrounds; all have light-brown skin and dark hair, and Pablo wears glasses. Repeating the same few words guarantees success for new readers. Uncluttered layout and a sans-serif typeface also help, while digitally enhanced watercolor illustrations provide context clues. Each of the three brief chapters can stand on its own, though they also form a cohesive if simple story arc when read in one sitting. Henry seems unrealistically willing to adjust his behavior so as to not disturb his mother; his mother is all too happy to break into dance when her work is complete. In the simultaneously publishing Block Party, Padma is embarrassed when her mother brings Indian lentil soup to the neighborhood festivities. But her friends seem to like it, so Padma decides she can be proud of the soup and of her heritage. Each book closes with an “extra”: instructions to make a homemade drum in Music Time, and a recipe for lentil curry soup in Block Party.
An earnest and conscientious effort to add diversity to new readers’ choices. (Early reader. 5-8)