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)