A warm and nostalgic family remembrance.

NATHAN'S SONG

Love of opera brings a Jewish boy from czarist Russia to New York.

When he hears an opera singer perform in the neighboring shtetl, Nathan wants to sing also. His impoverished family saves for years and finally can afford to send him to Italy to study. Nathan sets out for a Black Sea port but is so overwhelmed by the many languages that he ends up on the wrong ship—one that is sailing to New York City. Fortunately, he can literally sing for his supper, and all the passengers dine and dance to his music-making. When he sets foot in New York, he continues to sing, this time on street corners to pay for food and lodging. A job in a hat store, marriage, and earning enough money to bring over his family follow. Nathan continues his studies and even sings on Broadway. The author recounts what is loosely her grandfather’s journey to America with great affection. In her author’s note, she provides some background information on Jewish life in Russia’s “Pale of Settlement” with its often violent anti-Semitism. The graphically striking artwork is brightly colored in blues, yellows, and oranges and fills the pages with dancing figures and city buildings. Families may follow this story with tales of their own American journeys. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 33.9% of actual size.)

A warm and nostalgic family remembrance. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984815-78-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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