4.04.2013

Musical City: Tito Puente, Mambo King - Rey del Mambo

Tito Puente Mambo KingTitle: Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo
Author: Monica Brown
Illustrator: Rafael López
Publ. date: March 3, 2013
Publisher: Rayo/Harper Collins

Tito Puente, the Mambo King, was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents and went on to become one of the most important musicians and composers in Latino musical history.  Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo tells the story of Puente's life in a straight-forward tale from the time when he was a small child banging out catchy rhythms on pots and pans through his time in the Navy, at Julliard, all the way to the end of his career when he was recognized with 5 Grammys.

The text, which itself seems to sway to the beat of a mambo is in both English and Spanish, a tribute to Puente's heritage, but there is no sprinkling of Spanish words amongst the English text as one sometimes finds in bilingual books. Brown focuses primarily on general facts about Puente without getting into a lot specifics, but they are the types of events that young kids will enjoy hearing about: his love of dancing, his wish to be a bandleader, the sounds of the instruments.  My sons loved the repeated rhythmic phrases like "¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tica!  ¡Tom Tom!" at the beginning and end of the story.

López has created vibrant illustrations which fly across each full two page spread. A fun note in the copyright section indicates he used "acrylic paint that comes in recycled salsa jars from Mexico." Those swirling, spicy orange, red and brown colors of the salsa that used to inhabit those jars bring Puente's musical salsa to life. The city is ever present; skyscrapers and apartment buildings are colorful browns, purples and yellow, with windows always lit up as if constantly full of life.

This is a short biography. Older children who want to know more detail about Puente's life can read a biographical note in the back. I think the book is best used as a springboard to introduce kids to Latin Jazz. I would encourage you to listen to some of Puente's music (or watch a video like the one below) after reading the book.

I've read a lot of jazz-themed books but this is one of the few that is specific to Latin jazz. I encourage you to read it with your music-loving kids.

Want More?
The same team wrote and illustrated the bilingual My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia : The Life of Celia Cruz/la vida de Celia Cruz.
Visit Monica Brown's website.
Visit Rafael Lopez' website.
Watch this video of Puente from 1965:


Big Kid says: He sounds like a great musician.
Litte Kid says: Can you still see his sticks?

Disclosure: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Purchases made through links may result in my receiving a (very) small commission, at no extra cost to you. I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

2.28.2013

Animated City: New York in Pajamarama

New York in Pyjamarama
Title: New York in Pajamarama
Author: Michaël Leblond
Illustrator: Frédérique Bertrand
Pages: 24
Publ. Date: 2013 (US Edition)
Publisher: Phoenix Yard Books

When I first saw the YouTube video demonstrating how New York in Pajamarama worked, I knew I had to share it with my kids! The book was originally published in France as New York en Pyjamarama in 2011 (where it was the fastest selling picture book of the year) and has finally made its way to the USA!

The Story:
One night, at bedtime, instead of falling asleep a boy in striped pajamas dons a red cape and flies off on a midnight adventure across New York City. Inviting readers to follow him, he takes in the whole city: from traffic-jammed streets to busy shopping districts, from leafy Central Park to sparkling Broadway. Eventually, the dizzying "skyscraper forest" overpowers him and he finally heads back home to rest, but not without mentioning that there will be a new journey soon. (There is a sequel, Lunaparc en Pyjamarama.)

How It Works:

The book comes with a large sheet of acetate marked with black lines. Each of the book's illustrations also contains an embedded "code" of lines and when you slide the acetate across the pages the effect is that the illustrations come alive (as demonstrated in the video, below).

The technique is perfect for conveying the constant movement of the city: dizzying lights, waving leaves, rushing vehicles and stampeding pedestrians! My kids loved the interactive nature of the book and there was a wee bit of arguing over who got to control the animation! We had to take turns for each page, but no one wanted to relinquish the acetate sheet!

My Recommendation:

I found this book to be marvelous and highly recommend it. Many of you may be familiar with the "Scanimation" books by Rufus Butler, but I always found those small books frustrating because the animation only occurred when turning the page and you have to be careful not to miss it. The great thing about New York in Pajamarama is that readers can open the large book flat to control and enjoy the "magic."

This is not a library book! It's a book to purchase (and I don't say that about many books since I love the library so much).

Want More?
Watch the YouTube Video:


Read a review at Library Mice or Kirkus.
On my parenting blog, we made a cityscape art project to go along with the book.

Big Kid says: Awesome!
Little Kid says: Awesome!

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but it in no way influenced my review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

1.16.2013

Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers

Title: Lazy Little Loafers
Author: Susan Orlean
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
32 Pages
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publ. Date: Oct. 1, 2008

The narrator of this book is really on to something. She wonders why babies aren't doing anything more productive than pushing strollers and elevator buttons (both activities which are are more likely to annoy than improve the  lives of those around them.) Babies, she declares are just moochers. Worst of all, they get to all the things she wants to do, except she is required to go to school instead!

Karas' illustrations of a girl walking through the city with her (very stylish) mom and baby sibling bring Orlean's story to life. [Orlean is the author of the grown-up book, The Orchid Thief, which was the inspiration for the very bizarre move, Adaptation.]  Our narrator sees babies everywhere, from billboards to the park and the City is the natural choice if you are looking for a location that can be easily and realistically packed full of infants. Indeed, the illustrations reminded me of the heavily tot-populated nabes of the Upper West Side and Park Slope in New York City. (A Central Park hot dog vendor in a park scene reveals that the location is NYC).

This is a cute book and would be a nice choice for older siblings who frequently whine about why they don't get to do what their younger counterparts get to do. (Not that I know anyone like that....) But be warned, the book doesn't answer that question!

Big Kid says: That is Central Park.
Little Kid says: What's a "loafer"?

Want More?
Read the backstory at Susan Orlean's website.
Watch a video of Orleans talking about the book on The Warren Report.
Visit G. Brian Karas' website.

1.13.2013

Neighborly City: Laundry Day

Title: Laundry Day
Author/Illustrator: Maurie J. Manning
32 Pages
Publisher: Clarion Books (HMH)
Publ. Date: April, 17, 2012

Laundry Day is going on my list of favorite new urban picture books. Set in early 20th century New York City, a length of red fabric floats down and lands on young shoeshine boy. He looks up to see miles of laundry lines criss-crossing the tenement-lined alleyway. Determined to find the owner of the vibrant cloth, he hoists himself up on the fire escape. Making his way from apartment to apartment he encounters the friendly inhabitants from various cultural backgrounds, including a Chinese grandmother, four young Polish girls, a harried Irish mother, an African-American prospector, and others. Each neighbor expresses their admiration for the fabric, using a cultural reference (and new foreign word) but it is not until he reaches the roof, that the shoeshine finds its owner.

Although the action of Laundry Day takes place in a single, rather confined location, author-illustrator, Manning, has marvelously created an uplifting portrait of a diverse and densely populated city. It looks like a lovely place to live -- interesting neighbors, different cultures and friendly faces. Manning illustrates the books using a multi-panel (or storyboard) layout which both enhances the feeling of close-knit living as well as nicely accents the shoeshine as he adeptly climbs railings, slides and tightrope-walks across clotheslines and shimmies up pipes. In this book, the city is indeed a fun place to be.

Laundry Day is an excellent choice for your next family story time, whether you're an urban-dweller or not. I highly recommend it.

Little Kid says: He climbed to the top!
Big Kid says: That looks a little dangerous.


Want More?
Visit Maurie J. Manning's website.
Reviews at Perogies & GyozaBookalicious and Waking Brain Cells.
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