Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Review: When Langston Dances by Kaija Langley

Today's review is, again, heading toward Black History Month. The moment I saw the joyful boy on the cover and read the blurb, I knew this one was a winner.

Now, anyone who follows my 'What's Coming' posts at the beginning of the month will notice a change-up from my earlier announced schedule. For better or worse, February has gone crazy! Thanks to my daughter's competitions and some sudden and happy family celebrations, I've had to re-puzzle everything. The books I announced are still coming this month, but the entire order is a hodge-podge mess. 

But let's start with this one, shall we? 

by Kaija Langley
Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Simon and Schuster
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 8 to 12

A young Black boy dreams of dancing in this exuberant, buoyant picture book celebrating the beauty of dance, and the wonder of Black Boy Joy—perfect for fans of Firebird and Crown!

Langston likes basketball okay, but what he loves is to dance—ever since he saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform. He longs to twirl into a pirouette, whirl into a piqué. He wants to arabesque and attitude, grand battement and grand jeté. When he walks, the whole street is his stage.

With his neighborhood cheering him on, will Langston achieve his dream?



The joy of dancing comes across with a sense of freeness and fun in this lovely illustrated read.

Langston likes basketball, but after he watches dancers perform on a stage, he discovers what he adores—dancing. He dances everywhere he goes, twirling, leaping and twisting. Despite some teasing, he's happy when his mother signs him up for classes at the dance studio. From one class to the next, he watches the various forms of dance until there's one he can't wait to jump in and join.  

Ballet isn't often considered as the normal dance form for boys, but this book shows that it is...and that with wonderful finesse. Langston never, ever comes across as girly. The entire time through, he wears a basketball uniform. Even during a ballet class as he stands between the girls in their pink leotards, Langston smiles and does his positions while wearing the basketball uniform. This is clever in that it subtly steers listeners away from thoughts that Langston isn't a usual boy.

The illustrations are very true to life and show Langston as a normal kid with normal family and friends. He always radiates positivity and a love for what he does, no matter what those around him say. This already is inspiring. Even the support he gets from his mother and teacher keep everything bright.

The last scenes inspire and allow the full delight of Langston dancing to unfold and, through the illustrations, leave all possible negative thoughts far behind.

It's well done and a read that leaves a smile on the face (and dreams blooming in the heart).

And here they are...

Born and raised in East Orange, New Jersey, Kaija Langley has been writing since she fell in love with words at age seven. She knew she was onto something when she wrote her first poem and her grade school classmates thought she’d copied it from a book! A proud alumna of Morgan State University, a historically black college and university in Baltimore, Maryland, she received her MFA in fiction from St. Mary’s College of California in 2005. She’s called many places home over the years—New Jersey, Maryland, DC, California, Louisiana—and currently lives, writes, and plays in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her two bonsai and her beloved. 

Keith Mallett has been drawing and painting for as long as he can remember. The NAACP Image Award-nominated artist and designer has created posters and fine art prints for more than forty years. As guest artist, he crafted the 2017 Google Doodle commemorating Martin Luther King Day. Keith Lives in San Diego with his wife and German Shepherd.

1 comment:

Heather N. Quinn said...

An innovative book that strikes me as a great addition to libraries everywhere.