Comic-book and lucha libre fans alike will not tap out of this semibilingual smackdown.


From the El Toro & Friends series

El Toro needs to train for his big lucha libre match, but all he wants to do is sleep!

Poor Kooky Dooky—¿Qué va hacer? What’s he going to do? This quirky, early-reader spinoff of the ¡Vamos! series follows exasperated trainer Kooky Dooky as he pulls all the stops to get and keep El Toro out of bed. How about a big breakfast? Nope. After a gigantic belch, the sluggish luchador nose-dives under the covers. The rooster lures his trainee out of the bed with smelly shoes and a promise to go easy. Finally the training program gets results: Obstreperous chickens are caught by hand—er, hoof; the unplugged mechanical bull is dominated; the “Spiked Piñatas of DOOM” are pulverized; junk cars are crushed; and abuelas are helped across the street. Todo es listo—all is ready. Today El Toro will obliterate The Wall (pun very much intended—one of The Wall’s fans sports a distinctive blond ’do and orange skin). The unstoppable Raúl the Third brings his border barrio to rip-roaring life with plenty of humor, embedded Spanish, and Chicano cultural references. Colorist Bay’s creative enhancement of Raúl’s detail-rich frames continues their energetic collaboration. Action explodes throughout, though readers may be disappointed by the abrupt ending. In the simultaneously publishing Tag Team, El Toro and La Oink Oink team up to clean the arena following their thrashing of Donny Dollars and the Bald Águila.

Comic-book and lucha libre fans alike will not tap out of this semibilingual smackdown. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38038-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)


Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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