Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling.

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SWAN LAKE

From the Story Orchestra series

A look-and-listen (albeit briefly) adaptation of a favorite ballet story.

A diverse cast of dancers fills the pages of this very basic retelling of a Russian classic of the ballet repertoire. The spread-spanning illustrations are busily filled with lakeside swans sporting fancy, feathery costumes along with many trees, deer, foxes, and rabbits. The palace is pink and glittery and replete with chandeliers, curtains, and fancily costumed guests. There, Odile, malevolent-looking daughter of the evil sorcerer Rothbart, dances with Prince Siegfried and tricks him into believing that she is the lovely Odette, the enchanted swan, who looks bereft. The audience-pleasing national dances of Act 3 are not mentioned in the text nor depicted in the illustrations. Stagings of Swan Lake have always had various endings, some happy and some not so, as Prince Siegfried and his beloved Odette are united only in the afterlife. This version has them living happily ever after on Earth. The gimmick of this title is the 10 brief (10 seconds or so) sound clips that barely hint at the very beautiful score. Adults taking children to a performance may find this useful as an introduction, but listening to a suite of the music would be a better idea. The refreshingly inclusive casting—Siegfried, Odette, and Odile have brown skin, and there are many courtiers of color—does not mitigate the book’s flaws.

Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/novelty. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4150-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Raindrops are delightful and danceable musical melodies.

SINGING IN THE RAIN

Movie happiness is now picture-book joy.

The title song from the classic 1952 movie musical is a song-and-dance salute to joie de vivre—as is this book version. It opens with a cheerful double-page spread of a brown-skinned child in perfectly matched yellow rain gear perched on a lamppost as musical notes in the same cheerful yellow stand out against a blue rain-splattered background. Homage to Gene Kelly? Of course! On the following pages, children in equally colorful rainy-day outfits join in the fun as they dance and march along. They watch from the observation deck of the Empire State Building as clouds fill the sky and the same bright yellow notes appear. Close-ups of the smiling, multiracial cast follow as they watch flowers grow or a reflection in a puddle and then happily splash away to other landscapes filled with tropical birds and lush green foliage. Sing the lyrics or recite the words “based on the song” and have a really good time. Hopgood’s digitally rendered collages of watercolor, pencil, and ink add depth, texture, and buoyant spirit to the package.

Raindrops are delightful and danceable musical melodies. (illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-12770-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Like a concerto for the heart.

DANCING HANDS

HOW TERESA CARREÑO PLAYED THE PIANO FOR PRESIDENT LINCOLN

Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño performs for President Abraham Lincoln amid a raging Civil War in Engle and López’s portrait of an artist.

Thanks to parental encouragement, Teresita learned about “all the beautiful / dark and light keys / of a piano” at an early age. By the age of 6, she composed original songs. Revolución in Venezuela soon drove an 8-year-old Teresa and her family to sail across the stormy sea to the United States, but the Carreño family arrived only to find another violent conflict—“the horrible Civil War”—in their adopted country. Despite the initial alienation that comes from being in an unfamiliar country, Teresita continued to improve and play “graceful waltzes and sonatas, / booming symphonies, and lively folk songs.” The Piano Girl’s reputation spread far, eventually garnering the attention of Lincoln, who invited the 10-year-old to perform at the White House! Yet the Civil War festered on, tormenting Teresita, who wished to alleviate the president’s burdens for at least one night. “How could music soothe / so much trouble?” Half biographical sketch, half wide-eyed tribute, Engle and López’s collaboration endearingly builds to Teresa’s fateful meeting with Lincoln like a gravitational pull, with bursts of compassion and admiration for both artist and public servant. Engle’s free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López’s vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights.

Like a concerto for the heart. (historical note) (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8740-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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