Mama Does the Mambo

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Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
This heartbreaking story about coping with loss is cleverly dressed as an ode to dancing. Leiner's great achievement is how much she manages to say without words—our young narrator Sofia needs to see her mother dance to know that she's all right, but it's companionship, not dancing, that Mama misses--and the story's resolution is at once bittersweet and exultant. Rodriguez's mixed-media artwork glints or broods according to the narrative's mood and vividly conveys the flavors, textures, and hues of Havana.
Publishers Weekly
"After Papa died, Mama stopped dancing," opens this affecting tale narrated by a Cuban child who misses the evenings of the past. Sofia remembers when her parents danced together and "Papa held the beat, and Mama, the rhythm," and the sensation they created at the annual Havana carnival, where the crowd marveled at their dancing. Now men line up in the courtyard in hopes of becoming Mama's dance partner, but "her heart is not in it. Her skirts stay in the closet, her feet, bare." Mama's favorite suitor is Eduardo, a kind fellow who displays his cooking talents in the kitchen but demonstrates little skill on the dance floor. Readers may not be surprised at the dancing partner Mama chooses, but they are likely to find the story's conclusion roundly satisfying. Into a narrative that is intermittently lyrical and wordy, Leiner subtly weaves Spanish phrases that youngsters will easily interpret given their context. Newcomer Rodriguez lights up the spreads and spot art, moving easily from cozy indoor scenes to the vibrant Havana streets and festival mood of carnival. His illustrations emanate a luminescence and energy befitting the story's theme and setting, capturing details of Cuban life as well as these likable characters' personalities. Ages 5-9. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sofia used to love to watch her mother and father dance, especially at Carnival. But since her father died her mother, who used to dance all the time, has lost all interest. When Carnival time approaches, all her friends in Havana tell her that her mama needs a partner, perhaps for more than dancing. Many men would like to dance with her. Unfortunately Eduardo, the nicest, can't dance. Finally, at Carnival, as their favorite Mambo begins, Sofia and mama dance it together, to the delight of all. The tale is filled with the spirit, color, rhythm, even food of Havana, as well as Spanish words, all explained in the glossary. Colored line woodcuts with paint exploit the warm colors of the semi-tropical country, while the double and single-page scenes exude the upbeat community spirit. Included are bits of local settings, from street scenes to backyards hung with laundry to architectural facades on the endpapers. Teachers may have to answer tough questions about our Cuban boycott after this delightful, foot-tapping picture of Cuban life. 2001, Hyperion Books for Children, $15.99. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz AGES: 5 6 7 8 9
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-Sofia tells this story set in Cuba during a time when LPs, not CDs, provided entertainment. Since her papa's death, the music has stopped in their household and the girl worries that her mother will never find another dance partner. From all over Havana, men line up to get the chance to dance with her, but she is not interested. In the end, Mama chooses to mambo with Sofia at carnival. The text is peppered with easily understood Spanish phrases. Rodriguez's artwork, done in pastel, gouache, and spray paint with woodblock-ink linework, is dramatic and attractive. Vibrant oranges and reds express the passion mother and daughter have for music and dance. This could be paired with Libba M. Gray's My Mama Had a Dancing Heart (Orchard, 1996), which also shows a mother and daughter's love for dance. A fine offering.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786806461
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
  • Publication date: 9/30/2001
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.82 (w) x 11.18 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2004

    Boring for Children

    It's not a flop, but my 3 kids became bored, quickly. I do not recommend this book; it's way too long, lacks vibrancy and seems researched. Perhaps it's because it's not written by a Cuban? I'm American but my children's father is Cuban/Puerto Rican. None of us recommend it.

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