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 wordsour 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
"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.
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.