Brown and López, who previously teamed for the award-winning My Name Is Celia (2004), collaborate anew in this energetic bilingual tribute to the salsa drummer and band leader extraordinaire.
Brown’s narrative, simply phrased and peppered with exclamation points, takes her preschool and primary audience from Tito’s toddlerhood, banging “spoons and forks on pots and pans,” through childhood loves: drum lessons, dancing and stickball on the streets of Harlem. Bouncing through the musician’s adulthood, Brown highlights early gigs, a Navy stint (where he learned to play sax) and regular shows at the Palladium in New York City. Puente’s dream of heading his own band comes true in a single page turn (though López’s depiction of the now white-haired drummer does attest to time’s passage). A percussive refrain, fun to read and hear, pops up as part of the Spanish text but resonates in either language: “¡Tum Tica! / ¡Tac Tic! / ¡Tum Tic! / ¡Tom Tom!” López’s pictures, layered acrylics on prepared wooden boards, convey salsa’s rhythmic exuberance via a riotous palette that includes electric orange, chocolate brown, pale teal, and touches of pink and purple. Multihued swirls and plumes emanate from Tito’s timbales and drumsticks; Celia Cruz (a frequent collaborator) soars in a costume whose fuchsia feathers seem to morph from the sea green waves below.
A vibrant, reverent celebration of the godfather of salsa. (biographical note; brief musical notation for rumba beat included in the text) (Bilingual picture book/biography. 4-8)