This story full of motion, passion for the art of dance, and onomatopoeia that lets readers hear Gus’ tapping will urge...

THE THUMBTACK DANCER

With twinkle toes like Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s, a young light-skinned black boy has rhythm oozing from his pores.

From morning until night, Gus taps everywhere he goes. Unable to afford tap shoes, he adds seven red thumbtacks to his shoes to make his fancy footwork audible. Every day, Gus attempts to convince the teacher at the local dance studio—an African-American man who wears dreadlocks like Gus’—that he has the moves to be a tap dancer. But the teacher will not allow thumbtacks on his hardwood floors: “You won’t get through this door until you have real tap shoes.” Gus finally realizes that his dance moves are just the commodity he needs to earn entree into the studio. Though the facial features of some of the characters are sometimes distorted, Gilchrist’s airy watercolor illustrations skillfully capture Gus’ perpetual motion, with his long locks flying this way and that in nearly every illustration. Some readers might find the teacher a disappointment: with the passion and potential Gus has for being a tap-dancing prodigy, surely the teacher could find the boy a used pair of tap shoes to help him start honing his craft. Gus’ poverty need not be an obstacle. Nevertheless, it proves a suitable driver for the story and a showcase for Gus’ determination.

This story full of motion, passion for the art of dance, and onomatopoeia that lets readers hear Gus’ tapping will urge readers to add thumbtacks to their own shoes and start dancing! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9977720-0-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Alazar Press

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.

NOT ME!

In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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