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

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/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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