Monday, May 03, 2010

Stories of Dance

Drumbeat in Our FeetDrumbeat in Our Feet
by Patricia A. Keeler and Julio T. Leitao, illustrated by Patricia A. Keeler, Lee&Low, 2006

The authors honor the Batoto Yetu dance troupe and celebrate African dance in this uplifting picture book.  Julio T. Leitao founded the troupe in 1990

Children from all over the New York City area arrive at the dance studio where their teacher leads them in songs, drumming and dance.  The meanings of the dances are reflected in traditional dress, masks and body paint as they prepare for a show.  As the children learn the steps, they also learn history and embrace  different cultural traditions.

Keeler's layout features background information in the left margin of colorful two page spreads. She portrays an African dance class to the right.  As the children prepare for a performance, facts about the origins of different types of dances, costumes, and musical instruments accompany vivid illustrations of students leaping and stepping through traditional dances.

Additional information about Batoto Yetu, which means "our children" in Swahili,  rounds out the book with photographs of young performers.  A map of the African continent helps orient the reader and a pronunciation guide and author's sources are included.
We are the children of the ancestors, singing the songs, dancing the steps to a story that never ends.  African rhythm in our steps. African drumbeat in our feet!

My Friend Maya Loves to DanceMy Friend Maya Loves to Dance
by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Abrams, 2010

Maya loves ballet and every other form of dance. Hudson follows Maya into her ballet class where the reader can hear the teacher's voice directing their movements in French.  Maya loves tap, African dance and performing during worship at her church. 

Eric Velasquez discusses his approach to the illustrations in an interview at The Brown Bookshelf.  He tenderly paints the awkwardness of the young girl executing a  jeté, while capturing the promise of the future dancer.  I appreciated his use of  poster-like backgrounds to depict Maya's wide-ranging musical interests. from Dizzy Gillespe to Oscar Peterson, from classical to gospel. 

Although the text does not refer to her directly, the illustrations reveal that Maya's friend who is the narrator of the story,  is in a wheel chair which brings meaning to the closing lines, 
Maya dances strong, and free
With joy all can see. 
Dancing is magic for her and for me.

1 comment:

Playing by the book said...

I love the sound of Drumbeat in your feet - and what great music you could listen to after reading this book! My girls haven't (yet) gotten into books about dance. The eldest quite likes Angelina Ballerina, but I think she is ghastly so I do my best to "lose" those books under piles of other more enticing ones!