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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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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A positive boost from a strong role model.

I HAVE A SUPERPOWER

NBA legend Curry draws from his own childhood experiences to tell the story of an aspiring basketball player with a hidden ability.

Eight-year-old Hughes isn’t going to tell everyone what his superpower is—he’s going to show them, and he wants to teach readers how to use theirs, too. On his way to the basketball court, Hughes discusses how he discovered his power: First, his mom told him about it, and then his coach told him, too. Dressed in his tank top and shorts, Hughes arrives at the basketball court ready for action. He watches the tallest kids and the fastest kids get picked first for teams. But Hughes’ superpower isn’t one that he was born with, nor is it one that he picked up quickly—it took months of practice. His is a power that can be applied to any passion: his heart. Bowers’ energetic, cartoonlike illustrations work well with the comic-style narration: A Black television announcer on a screen appears on each page, prompting Hughes to share his story, which appears in speech bubbles. This dual narration makes for a dynamic presentation of the overt message, which many children need to hear. A diverse cast of characters surround Hughes, who is brown-skinned (one of his parents presents Black; the other is tan-skinned). Curry appears on the final spread, telling readers that he didn’t let discouraging comments stop him from playing the game that he loves. He invites readers to go back through the book and find a list of his favorite things hidden in the images throughout. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A positive boost from a strong role model. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-38604-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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