Diana Dances – written and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

  Diana Dances – written and illustrated by Luciano Lozano, Annick Press, 9781773212470, 2021

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2

Format: Paperback

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  Diana, a winsome, bespeckled, and slightly roly-poly elementary school student, can’t sit still in class. As she’s in danger of failing a math test, Mom tries a tutor, then a doctor, and finally a retro and Freudian-looking psychologist, who has her lie on a couch and look at ink blots. Luckily, he also recommends dance classes. Once Diana starts, it’s clear she’s a kinesthetic learner and will do just fine now that she can groove while reciting the multiplication tables. The lively illustrations are done in gouache and pen-and-ink, and like the good doctor, have a nostalgic 1950s look (Mom in pearl earrings and collared blouses, teacher in pencil skirt and twin set).  In a nod to modernity, the doctor is a woman, and children of various hues attend Diana’s school; there’s even a little girl who uses a wheelchair. Diana, her mom, and all other adults are White.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Although the art is first rate, I found the story mystifying. Shouldn’t mom’s first step have been to talk with the classroom teacher? If we are to surmise from the story that Diana has trouble concentrating, she probably needs a whole child approach. Children with these issues cannot be “fixed” with a dance class. I also had problems with the dance class; although the collection of children in the class have Diana-style bodies, when Diana images being a dancer or dreams of it, her visions are populated solely by Balanchine pinheads.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I wouldn’t recommend this book. Both the simplistic understanding of attention issues and the perpetuation of a single body-type for dance were problematic. I would say the intended audience is ages 4-8.

Who should buy this book? Possibly a public library

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 25, 2021

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