Celebrates shining bright even when others want us to dim our light.

BRAVO ANJALI!

Anjali is the star of her tabla lessons, but not everyone supports her success.

Her friend Deepak, for example, makes fun of her and talks about her behind her back. It doesn’t help that many people assume that the Indian drumset is just for boys. Anjali tries to cope by confronting Deepak—unsuccessfully—and by pretending that she doesn’t know tabla as well as she actually does. Caught between her friendship and her talent, Anjali is so riddled with frustration that she must leave class in the middle of the day to go to the bathroom. While there, she meets a fifth grader named Tina who tells Anjali, “Never dim your light, girl.” Heeding the older student’s words, Anjali decides to embrace her talent and to celebrate her hard work, and by the end of the story, Anjali is shining bright. Soto’s cheery illustrations depict Anjali’s diverse elementary school and her love of music with equal flair. The book’s message, which feels aimed at young women of color, is both relevant and essential. Laudably, the author does not sugarcoat the consequences of being young, female, South Asian, and unafraid even as she gives Anjali strong support in both her parents and tabla teacher. At times, the text can be forced or stilted, but overall the book is inspiring without being preachy, all while delivering an essential message. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Celebrates shining bright even when others want us to dim our light. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73705-501-3

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Mango and Marigold Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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

LET'S DANCE!

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

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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