A solid reminder of music’s power and a good primer on Puerto Rican dance culture.

READ REVIEW

WHEN JULIA DANCED BOMBA / CUANDO JULIA BAILABA BOMBA

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)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55885-886-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials.

THE WHATIFS

Worrier Cora is plagued by the Whatifs until she learns a new way to tackle her anxieties.

Cora has a problem reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Whatif.” As she goes about her days, the Whatifs clamor for her attention. These embodied worries are presented as needling little monsters that range from silly and annoying to frightening. They become especially distracting in the lead-up to her big piano recital. Despite all her preparation, the Whatifs latch on and won’t let go. Just before her big performance, though, an older girl notices Cora’s distress. Stella encourages turning around the Whatif worries, a tactic drawn straight out of the cognitive behavioral therapy playbook. By reframing and pondering alternative and optimistic Whatifs, Cora is able to tackle her anxiety and succeed. Both Cora and Stella have dark hair and eyes and peachy complexions; Cora’s classmates and community appear fairly diverse. Cora and her Whatifs have a charming appeal beyond their focus on tackling anxious thoughts, making an enjoyable read-aloud for wide audiences. In her author’s note, Kilgore describes her own anxiety disorder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51% of actual size.)

A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1029-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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