October 24, 2018

Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico by Duncan Tonatiuh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:40 am by suebe2

Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers

When Amalia was born in Mexico City in 1917, everyone assumed she would be a teacher.  After all, her mother was a teacher and her grandmother had been a teacher.  Amalia too thought that she would teach.

But one day when her family was on vacation, Ami saw a pair of dancers performing a folk dance.  Ami was entranced.

At home, Ami whirled and twirled.  Her father wasn’t thrilled but her mother encouraged the girl’s enthusiasm.  Before long, she won her father over.  Not only did he have a studio built into their home, he brought in the very best dance teachers he could find.  Soon Ami was a talented ballerina.

In 1939, Ami saw two American dancers.  They didn’t perform ballet.  Their modern dance was powerful.

It didn’t take long before Ami was combining ballet with modern dance.  Then she began working in elements of various Mexican folk dances.  She also choreographed dances based on Mexican history.

It is really hard to review this book without simply retelling all of Ami’s accomplishments.  In addition to being a talented dancer, she founded El Ballet Folklórico de México.  The company performs even today in Mexico and all over the world. They are credited with fueling the public enthusiasm for Mexican folk dance and also the pride many Mexicans have in their culture.  Not only did Ami elevate these dances in Mexico, she took them all over the world.

If you aren’t familiar with Tonatiuh’s work, pick this book up.  Even when illustrating modern dance, it is clear that Tonatiuh’s illustrations draw on the style of ancient Mexican artists.  Tonatiuh hand draws his illustrations and then scans and colors them digitally.

If you have a young reader who is intrigued by dance or by Mexican culture, pick up this book.  It would also be a wonderful addition to any library striving for inclusion and diversity.



October 19, 2018

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 6:14 pm by suebe2

Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love
Candlewick Press

On Saturday mornings, Julian and Abuela go swimming.  One day on the way home, they spot a trio of women on the subway.  Julian can’t stop staring at their beautiful dresses complete with mermaid tails or their fancy hair.  Soon Julian is lost in imagining that pool time is mermaid time.

As they get home, Julian points out to this grandmother that he too is a mermaid.  She reminds him to be good and goes to take a bath.

Soon Julian is getting creative – making flowing hair from fern fronds, adding touches of his grandmother’s make up and borrowing a sheer curtain to make a tail.  That is, of course, when Abuela wrapped up in a towel comes out of the bathroom. The look on her face makes it clear that she is not thrilled.

Julian isn’t sure what to do but Abuela gets dressed and comes back out carrying a beautiful necklace.  “For you, Julian.”

Love could have ended the book right here.  And it would have been sweet and amazing.  But she didn’t.  She created something more.



Abuela adds the necklace to Julian’s ensemble and the two head on down to the beach.  Soon they have reached the destination of the original trio of mermaids – a brilliant, flamboyant, parade on the beach.  There are mermaids, people wearing fish costumes, and even two little dogs dressed like lobster.  Julian has found his people.

I had heard wonderful things about this book when I requested it from the library.  Still, I approached it with caution.  Too often I’ve been disappointed by crowd favorites.  Julian did not disappoint.

It helps that Love is not only the author but the illustrator because so much is communicated through the illustrations.  From facial expressions to the things going on in the background, all add to the story.

This is a touching piece about love and acceptance and about finding wear you fit into the teaming, swirling mass of people around you. Definitely something that should be in school libraries, class room libraries and more.


October 4, 2018

Judy Moody: Mood Martian by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:12 pm by suebe2

Judy Moody: Mood Martian
by Megan McDonald
illustrated by Peter Reynolds

When was the last time I picked up a book with Judy Moody or her kid brother Stink?  Way too long.  So when I saw them on a list of Peter Reynolds books, I had to pop over to the library and check one out.

Sasquatch.  That’s what Judy Moody looks like in her school pictures.  Hairy.  Messy.  And really mad. And losing your temper has consequences in Mr. Todd’s class.  Judy has been sent to Antarctica to chill out three times in one week.  Three times!

Judy decides it is time to turn things around and she gets her start on opposites day.  Instead of wearing a ponytail on the front of her head or her shirt on backwards, Judy dresses up.  She wears a skirt.  Her clothes all match.  And her hair is pinned neatly in place.

No one can believe that this is Judy Moody. In fact, her friends decide she is really an alien.

Judy doesn’t let them get to her.  She’s going to stay in a good mood for an entire week.  Fortunately she has just the thing to calm her down.  Her grandmother taught her to finger knit.  By the end of the week, Judy’s finger knitting is taking over the house.  In fact it is so “everywhere” that when the two siblings are singing in her freshly painted room, Stink gets his foot tangled and trips.  The result is a butt print in the middle of Judy’s wall.

She doesn’t let it get to her.  But what will she do to keep her cool when her parents threaten to make her quit knitting if she can’t corral her craft?

How could I possibly have forgotten how much fun these books are?  McDonald works  positive behavior, neatness, finger knitting, math activities and colors all into one book that is both fun and funny.  As a mom, the best part is that although Judy isn’t perfect, her parents, teacher, and principal all adore her and her wacky ideas.

If your young reader has only recently started to read independently, check these books out.  This is #14.  The books are smallish.  Pair this with a large font and there isn’t an awful lot of text to conquer on each page.  They are also great books for reading aloud.  Reynolds pen and ink drawings add to the fun.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a Stink book this time around.


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