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My Mama Had A Dancing Heart


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PreS-Gr 2-This award-winning lyrical tale by Libba Moore Gray (Orchard, 1996) recounts the memories of a ballet dancer who sings the praises of her mama, who believed in celebrating the wonders of the natural world through dance. Gray follows the mother-daughter pair through the seasons as they rejoice in the pastoral setting of home, summer seashore, spring meadows, autumn orchard, and snowy hills. The rhythm of the poetic narration is given voice by Bonnie Kelly-Young, whose fluid chanting of the text brings to life the delight of the young storyteller. Illustrator Raul Colon used watercolor washes and colored pencils on watercolor paper, then etched the surface. The results reverberate with pulsing pastel colors, holding textures that invite readers to trace curving shapes and contours on the page. Composer Chris Kubie's soft, yet spirited orchestral accompaniment to the spoken words fully engages listeners in a truly sensual appreciation of this work. The page-turn signal on one side of the tape is the sound of rustling pages; the other side of the tape is an uninterrupted version. The fine aural quality of the recording allows listeners to discern clearly the dominant narration, the echoing melody, and the subtle page rustle. The resulting harmony of words, pictures, and music creates a noteworthy addition audiobook collections. Pair this title with Karen Ackerman's Song and Dance Man (Knopf, 1988) for a toe-tapping double act.-Mary Burkey, Grandview Heights City Schools, Columbus, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Gray's (Small Green Snake) narrator shares a melodic remembrance of her mother, who welcomed each season with boundless enthusiasm-and bade her daughter to do the same: "Bless the world/ it feels like/ a tip-tapping/ song-singing/ finger-snapping/ kind of day. / Let's celebrate." The two danced barefoot in the spring rain, ran through the summer surf with balloons and kites tied to their wrists, performed a "leaf-kicking/ leg-lifting/ hand-clapping/ hello autumn ballet," and lay on the ground to make snow angels in winter. Shifting to the present tense, the girl-now a ballerina-notes how these memories serve as inspiration as she leaps across the stage. Though her imagery tends toward the precious, Gray has crafted a genuinely affectionate, personal tribute to someone who embraced life wholeheartedly. Colón (Always My Dad) contributes sophisticated, inventively textured art, rendered in an intriguing combination of watercolor washes, etching, and colored and litho pencils. The pictures gracefully convey the chronic motion described in Gray's text; their muted, earth-toned colors lend a nostalgic feel. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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