January 17, 2013
Jose! Born to Dance by Susanna Reich illustrated by Raul Colon
Obviously, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction picture books lately and many of the biographies are about artists.
Jose Limon was born in Culiacan, Mexico. When he was only five years-old, civil war broke out in Mexico. His father moved the family to the border town of Nogales where they lived for two years until the family was allowed to emigrate from war torn Mexico into the United States were his father had found work.
In the United States, Jose’s fellow students made fun of his English and he vowed to learn the language well enough that no one would mock him again. In three years, he spoke fluent English and was a star student. He was also popular with his younger brothers and sisters for the drawing that he made for them. They especially loved the trains.
After high school, he moved to New York taking a job as a janitor while he visited museums and made his drawings, but he was disappointed that what he saw in his head never emerged onto the paper. When a friend took him to a dance concert, his love of music was reawakened. Soon he was studying dance and making a name for himself through this type of art.
Reich expertly brings the sounds and movements of Jose’s world alive. When he is at his grandmother’s he hears the trillia-tweet of her canary. His mother sings him to sleep, sora-sora-so. As a teen, he practices the music of two languages. Carmesi. Radiante. Liberacion. Crimson. Radiant. Liberation.
Colon’s water color and colored pencil illustrations bring Jose’s world to life from the bright colors of Mexico to the contrast between the traditional dances he saw there and the modern dances he created in New York.
This book is a great read aloud to share not only with dance lovers but for anyone who needs to hear the song of inspiration.