Gr 2-4-A boy affectionately called "Happy Feet" sits in his father's shoeshine shop in Harlem and listens to the story of the night he was born in 1926. On that same night, the doors opened across the street at the famous Savoy Ballroom, one of the first venues where blacks and whites could dance together. "Twistmouth himself knocked on the door, asking the cost of a premium shine. `No charge,' I told him, `it's jelly on the cuff.' `Well then, alligator,' he said, `are your boots laced?' And he ticketed us both across the street to the head of the line." The story captures the mood and language of Harlem in the '20s and '30s, and introduces some of the famous faces at the Savoy, including "Twistmouth" George Ganaway, "Musclehead" Frank Manning, Big Bea, and others who invented dance steps that became famous in the swing era. Lewis's rich-toned watercolors bleed in and out of focus for the dancing scenes, transmitting excitement and joy. "`When folk are swinging,' Whitey sings, `ain't nobody better than nobody! Salt and pepper-equals! Cats and chicks-equals! Everybody just coming to dance.'" Happy Feet takes a backseat to the characters in his father's story, serving really as a framing device; it works fine for this charming, brief tale that makes a dramatic read-aloud introduction to swing and the Savoy.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A valentine to the renowned Savoy, narrated by a lad born on the day it opened in 1926 and illustrated with eye-filling watercolors featuring sharply dressed hep cats and hot, high-steppin' crowds. Young Happy Feet loves to hear his father, owner of a shoeshine shop just across the street, tell about the night he was born, when "all of Harlem togged out in their finest threads," and "even the rich white dukes came flying in from Hollywood" to swing and fly in the "hottest, coolest, most magnificent, superdeluxe dancing palace." Closing with a roster of renowned Lindy Hoppers, from Leroy "Stretch" Jones to Big Bea, this tribute will take young readers back to Harlem-as-it-was as persuasively as Debbie Taylor's Sweet Music in Harlem (2004), illustrated by Frank Morrison or Amy Littlesugar's Tree of Hope (1999), illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Picture book. 6-9)