Engaging and inspiring, this brief introduction is also fun to read.

READY TO FLY

HOW SYLVIA TOWNSEND BECAME THE BOOKMOBILE BALLERINA

A young black girl overcomes prejudice and financial barriers to become a successful ballerina and teacher in this picture book based on a true story.

Sylvia Townsend hears her parents’ music—jazz and symphonies—and she rises “to my toes, ready to fly.” She sees Swan Lake on television and decides she must learn ballet—but her supportive parents can’t pay for lessons. When a bookmobile comes to town, books about ballet become her teachers. She learns well, even teaching other girls in her neighborhood. When her fourth grade teacher sees the talented girl dance, she offers to pay for lessons, but three different schools turn Sylvia away. Only one “let[s] the real reason slip—ballet is for white girls.” Sylvia is disheartened—but her pupils still want lessons. At a school talent show, Sylvia’s skill leads to a connection to a Russian ballet teacher. After a successful audition, Sylvia earns a free place in her school. On the final spread, an adult Sylvia teaches a multiethnic room full of children at Sylvia’s School of Dance. Lyon and LaFaye have co-authored a standout text that centers action in this triumphant story. Gibson’s full-color illustrations use patterns, textures, and expressive facial features to show a loving family, a vibrant community, and a talented girl who becomes an accomplished woman. Townsend contributes a brief introduction, and backmatter elaborates on her life and on the history of the bookmobile.

Engaging and inspiring, this brief introduction is also fun to read. (notes, references, further reading) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288878-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A resplendent masterpiece.

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DREAMERS

Based on her experience of leaving Mexico for the United States, Morales’ latest offers an immigrant’s tale steeped in hope, dreams, and love.

This story begins with a union between mother and son, with arms outstretched in the midst of a new beginning. Soon after, mother and son step on a bridge, expansive “like the universe,” to cross to the other side, to become immigrants. An ethereal city appears, enfolded in fog. The brown-skinned woman and her child walk through this strange new land, unwilling to speak, unaccustomed to “words unlike those of our ancestors.” But soon their journey takes them to the most marvelous of places: the library. In a series of stunning double-page spreads, Morales fully captures the sheer bliss of discovery as their imaginations take flight. The vibrant, surreal mixed-media artwork, including Mexican fabric, metal sheets, “the comal where I grill my quesadillas,” childhood drawings, and leaves and plants, represents a spectacular culmination of the author’s work thus far. Presented in both English and Spanish editions (the latter in Teresa Mlawer’s translation), equal in evocative language, the text moves with purpose. No word is unnecessary, each a deliberate steppingstone onto the next. Details in the art provide cultural markers specific to the U.S., but the story ultimately belongs to one immigrant mother and her son. Thanks to books and stories (some of her favorites are appended), the pair find their voices as “soñadores of the world.”

A resplendent masterpiece. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4055-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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