The invitation to discover dance among such festive critters is still worth accepting. It could serve as an imaginative...

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SEBI AND THE LAND OF CHA CHA CHA

A curious young Latina and her friend learn three Latin dances as taught by a collection of step-savvy tropical animals.

Written by film and TV stars Sánchez and Winter with a lead character based on their daughter, Sebella, this picture book focuses on a child’s introduction to what’s rather generically referred to as “Latin dancing.” More specifically, Sebi and her friend Keeke (a pale-skinned child with a thatch of blond hair) learn the cha-cha, the samba, and the merengue from squirrels, monkeys, and cockatoos after stumbling upon a secret dance land after getting lost in some bushes at a park. Ortiz’s illustrations teem with rosy-cheeked figures (even the monkeys and the sun), curvy flora, and joyful movement, as each edge-to-edge image bursts with life. But the dances themselves, explained with detail in the text (“Bend one knee at a time. The more you bend, the more your hips swing”), never quite go beyond hip-swaying poses. Sebi and Keeke catch on, but it’s unlikely any kids will be able to follow the steps through pictures. Beyond the names of the dances, a half-hearted attempt at including Spanish phrases unnecessarily doublespeaks almost every bit of non-English, even such words as “Fantástico!” that perhaps didn’t need the clunky translation.

The invitation to discover dance among such festive critters is still worth accepting. It could serve as an imaginative introduction to new genres of music and movement. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-58363-6

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Celebra/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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