Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Candlewick Press, 2021. 9781536206081

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4 

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?This informative book tells the story of the creation of the mambo, a dance born of the fusion of American jazz with African and Latin music known as Latin jazz. New York in the 1940s was segregated by race and ethnicity. Each ethnic group had their own places to dance to jazz music. Machito and his Afro-Cubans played the new Latin jazz. One of their shows, at the Palladium Ballroom, was the first to be open to all ethnic groups. It is there that an Italian American named Millie and a Puerto Rican American named Pedro met and danced together. They became a couple and competed nationally in dance contests. The mambo mixed various styles of music and brought people of all backgrounds together. The story of Machito and his Afro-Cubans along with the story of Millie and Pedro are precursors to the civil rights movement of the 60s. This is a good introduction to the idea of small acts by individuals contributing to larger social change. The musicians and dancers used their talents and creative abilities to express themselves; this in turn helped to desegregate New York and promote the idea of racial equality.

Realistic illustrations feature many images of dancers along with descriptive language that captures the energy of the music. Backmatter gives more details about the musicians and dancers featured in the book.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of the movie West Side Story, young readers interested in dance and social justice.

Who should buy this book? Middle schools, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction dance

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Kerry Lamare, Robbins Library, Arlington MA

Date of review: December 29, 2021

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