A beautiful account of a young girl’s bravery and her important contribution toward gender equality in the creative arts.

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Pura Belpré winner and Newbery honoree Engle, known for writing free-verse historical fiction, introduces readers to Millo Castro Zaldarriaga with this illustrated poem, inspired by her subject’s childhood.

Millo became a world-famous musician at quite a young age. Before fame, however, as Engle’s account attests, there is struggle. Millo longs to play the drums, but in 1930s Cuba, drumming is taboo for girls, “so the drum dream girl / had to keep dreaming / quiet / secret / drumbeat / dreams.” This doesn’t stop Millo; she dares to let her talent soar, playing every type of drum that she can find. Her sisters invite her to join their all-girl band, but their father refuses to allow Millo to play the drums. Eventually, her father softens, connecting her with a music teacher who determines that her talent is strong enough to override the social stigma. The rhythmic text tells Millo’s story and its significance in minimal words, with a lyricism that is sure to engage both young children and older readers. López’s illustrations are every bit as poetic as the narrative, a color-saturated dreamscape that Millo dances within, pounding and tapping her drums. Though it’s not explicit in the text, her mixed Chinese-African-Cuban descent is hinted at in the motifs López includes.

A beautiful account of a young girl’s bravery and her important contribution toward gender equality in the creative arts. (historical note) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-10229-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.


Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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An exuberant read-aloud extolling the glory of dance and snow days.


A nighttime snowfall leads to a joyful snow-day dance.

Stepping out into the hushed silence of a snow day, Sofia pulls on a mustard-yellow coat and smooshes a matching cap over her straight, black hair. The undisturbed snow becomes her blank canvas for an exuberant snow-day ballet full of sound and life as she “crinch crunches” and “slish slusssssssssssshes” on the empty soccer field. But her solitary dance comes to an abrupt end when the field is overtaken by a horde of neighborhood children. Amid the chaos, one tiny, brown-skinned child in pigtails and fairy wings sees Sofia’s crestfallen expression, which leads to willowy Sofia’s teaching the little one to be a snow dancer too. Together, the new friends execute an impromptu pas de deux that transitions into an energetic group snowball fight until it’s time to go home. The lyrical narrative plays with auditory dynamics from the soft beginning through the jubilant, shout-filled climax to the cozy, quiet ending. The painterly illustrations use strong shapes and swooping linework that echoes Sofia’s balletic dancing. Many pages depict multiple Sofias, creating an animationlike effect that evokes movement. Sofia’s yellow-clad figure standing out against the snowy white pages and the sounds she makes in the new snow create a dance-filled nod to Ezra Jack Keats’ classic The Snowy Day (1962). (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 21.4% of actual size.)

An exuberant read-aloud extolling the glory of dance and snow days. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9317-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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