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

TRAINING DAY

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.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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