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From the El Toro & Friends series

A visual feast that packs a punch.

Find out how El Toro and his friends became “¡un equipo maravilloso!”

The ragtag team of luchadores first meet as rambunctious kids—untrained and unfocused—heading to Ricky Ratón’s School of Lucha for one purpose: “to learn how to WRESTLE!” Under the tutelage of the muscular Ricky Ratón and his chicken sidekick, the real training for El Toro and his friends begins. The luchadores-in-training learn many, many skills, including acrobatics, discipline, and patience. Best of all, they each hone “their very own special move!” In a series of humorous panels that mimic a training montage, readers see the cast of anthropomorphized animals in action, with zany moves that seem to bounce off the page. Unitalicized words and phrases in Spanish pop up among the predominantly English text to echo certain lines and action words, providing translations that slip in with ease. After the stupendous training, a proud Ricky Ratón reveals one final surprise test: The young luchadores must beat their maestro in a battle. One by one, El Toro and his friends lose against their powerful teacher until the luchadores-in-training realize that teaming up brings its own rewards. Author/illustrator Raúl the Third and colorist Bay’s latest retains the series’ use of short, punchy sentences, kaleidoscopic artwork, and comic book–style panels and speech bubbles; this one is sure to be a can’t-miss read-aloud. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A visual feast that packs a punch. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-39471-6

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Versify/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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