Afro–Puerto Rican dance traditions are celebrated through one girl’s breakthrough moment with bomba.
Julia is not thrilled to be practicing dance at the cultural center after she’s dragged along by her brother Cheíto, who is adept at drumming on barriles to make music for the bomba dance. “Julia didn’t want to practice dancing. She preferred to play make believe. Julia loved to daydream about becoming an astronaut.” After she watches an older dancer and tries her own clumsy steps, Julia is ready to give up. But when she’s invited to participate in bombazo, an opportunity for dancers to perform solos as everybody sings, she finds her nervousness transformed to joy as she locks in with the main drum. “TAN, rang out the drum again, loud and clear. ‘Wow,’ Julia thought, ‘the drum is talking to me!’ ” Readers won’t learn much about Julia, her brother, or other dancers in the story, but what Ortiz elucidates in the text and de Vita conveys in motion-filled illustrations and close-ups on drums is how music can break through one’s defenses and take over. The way Julia’s expressions change and her movements go from stiff and frustrated to unencumbered works. Throughout the book, English and Spanish versions of the text are featured, including lyrics from the music from Julia’s solo performance. A pagelong explanation of bomba celebrations and a brief glossary round out the package.
A solid reminder of music’s power and a good primer on Puerto Rican dance culture. (Picture book. 5-8)