|Danza! A biography of Amalia Hernández, by Duncan Tonatiuh
Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams BFYR, 2017
Ages 6-10, 32 pp, 980L
Dance, Cultural Diversity, Biography
Amalia (ah-MAH-lee-ah) Hernández was born in Mexico City in 1917 and everyone assumed she would grow up to be a schoolteacher like her mother and her grandmother. Even Ami (AH-me), as everyone called her, expected that.
But one afternoon while her family was on vacation, Ami saw a pair of dancers in a town square. They stomped and swayed to the live music. The danzas that they performed had been danced by the people of that area for generations. Ami was hooked. She made a decision: she was going to become a dancer herself.
Amalia Hernández is an overlooked figure in the history of entertainment. She was a dancer, teacher, and a collector of folk dances from her home country and around the world. She pioneered new styles of dance and incorporated cultural influences in her productions. She founded a prestigious ballet company, effectively cementing the importance of Mexican and folk dances in the collective consciousness. This book takes Amalia from her exposure to dance as a young girl, through the many high points of her life, and ends with her lasting legacy.
What I Love:
This book is written with scrupulous research and obvious respect, though the text is sometimes thick and overburdened with Amalia's many accomplishments. It is presented for ages 6 and up, but I think younger readers will have a difficult time grasping the details in the book. It can instead be used to introduce the very young to an exciting Hispanic personality and an important art movement. And older readers can enjoy the subject's amazingly full life and her ability to influence society. Unfortunately, the writing is sometimes less like a story, than an encyclopedic account. However, the book's significance and the omission of Ms. Hernández's broad accomplishments in most other places, makes this a picture book to try.
The author's choice to illustrate in a classical style adds to the book's message that Mexican tradition has much to offer. The nature of the art style is sometimes at odds with the theme of the book: Tonatiuh's art is fluid, but stiff at times, while Hernández's art was all about energy and movement. Tonatiuh does an excellent job of including even more facts into the back matter, facts which would have distracted from the linear nature of the story.
Danza! is a lovely and remarkable book which many people will find inspiring.
|A Mexican dancer to color, from Crayola
2. The Adelante Movement has published more information on the life of Amalia Hernández or check out the page on Danzantes Unidos.
3. You can learn the names and details about ten important traditional Mexican dances on CultureUp, as well as seeing a video for each.
4. PinBureau posted an inspiring article on the local Ballet Folklorico groups in the Phoenix, AZ area. Why not explore your town for a company near you?
5. In case you missed the other CYBILS Award finalist reviews, I've included the links below:
Hatching Chicks in Room 6
Once Upon A Jungle
6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.
|Reviewed by Vivian
|Reviewed by Beth
|Reviewed by Erik
|Reviewed by Patricia
|Reviewed by Maria
|Reviewed by Joanne
Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, April 27, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.
*As a CYBILS second round judge, I was expected to review this book in exchange for my honest opinion.