The invitation to discover dance among such festive critters is still worth accepting. It could serve as an imaginative...

SEBI AND THE LAND OF CHA CHA CHA

A curious young Latina and her friend learn three Latin dances as taught by a collection of step-savvy tropical animals.

Written by film and TV stars Sánchez and Winter with a lead character based on their daughter, Sebella, this picture book focuses on a child’s introduction to what’s rather generically referred to as “Latin dancing.” More specifically, Sebi and her friend Keeke (a pale-skinned child with a thatch of blond hair) learn the cha-cha, the samba, and the merengue from squirrels, monkeys, and cockatoos after stumbling upon a secret dance land after getting lost in some bushes at a park. Ortiz’s illustrations teem with rosy-cheeked figures (even the monkeys and the sun), curvy flora, and joyful movement, as each edge-to-edge image bursts with life. But the dances themselves, explained with detail in the text (“Bend one knee at a time. The more you bend, the more your hips swing”), never quite go beyond hip-swaying poses. Sebi and Keeke catch on, but it’s unlikely any kids will be able to follow the steps through pictures. Beyond the names of the dances, a half-hearted attempt at including Spanish phrases unnecessarily doublespeaks almost every bit of non-English, even such words as “Fantástico!” that perhaps didn’t need the clunky translation.

The invitation to discover dance among such festive critters is still worth accepting. It could serve as an imaginative introduction to new genres of music and movement. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-58363-6

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Celebra/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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