A fantastic book-jam that delights the ear just as much as the eye.

A cumulative story with rhythm, rhyme, and a bopping bunch of percussionists.

Nearly every day, a brown-skinned man carries a conga drum across the street and plays on the beach where all can hear: “pat-a-pat-a, pat-pat.” The young narrator, who has brown skin and curly brown hair, longs to join in, but without an instrument, this seems impossible. As the narrator watches from across the street, a skateboarding djembe drummer asks to join in, followed by a woman with a shekere, a man with zills, a biking couple with maracas, and an adult and child with bongos. Each percussion instrument has its own onomatopoeic sound that undulates across the pages as the beat variations grow. Unable to resist any longer, the narrator shyly asks, “Can I jam, too?” The way the protagonist joins in changes everything. In Alcántara’s richly colorful illustrations, the blues of sky and ocean, the tan sand, and the lush, green land remain constant while the musicians add as much color as they do sound, illustrating the amazing way that making music can bring people together and create community. Alcántara effectively captures the diversity of the characters in this African diasporic setting, illustrating various skin tones, hair styles and textures, clothing styles, fabric patterns, and more. With nearly singable text, this tale beckons readers to move.

A fantastic book-jam that delights the ear just as much as the eye. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: tomorrow

ISBN: 9780593323762

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

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. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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