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

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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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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation.

THE BEAR MUST GO ON

Four woodland animal friends put on a show.

Rabbit, Squirrel, and aptly named Other Squirrel (who has slightly redder fur than Squirrel) are a flurry of activity. They are going to put on a show. “A BIG show.…The BEST show!” It will have hats (tall ones), tickets (shiny ones), and a curtain (red—no, green). There are many decisions to be made. Bear, however, does not want to be part of it. He is too shy. He would prefer to be the note taker. Rabbit, Squirrel, and Other Squirrel fire off ideas, amending one another’s at furious speed, and Bear writes them all down. Scribbles appear in the white space surrounding the boulderlike ursine’s head. The ideas pile up; debut illustrator Todd deftly covers an entire page while Bear hunches in the middle, furiously writing. He hums a tune to keep himself calm. On the night of the performance, everything seems ready. Everything except…the show! They were so bogged down with the details, no one figured out what the show would be. The title gives away the ending from the very start, but Bear’s pluck is nevertheless laudable. Petty’s comedic quips are echoed in the frenzied art, with Bear looming large yet timid to ground it all. Limited, skilled use of panels helps to control the pacing.

A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3747-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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