¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! the Dance That Crossed Color Lines

by Dean Robbins (Author) Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

New York City's desegregated Palladium Ballroom springs to life with a diverse 1940s cast in this jazzy picture-book tribute to the history of mambo and Latin jazz.

Millie danced to jazz in her Italian neighborhood. Pedro danced to Latin songs in his Puerto Rican neighborhood. It was the 1940s in New York City, and they were forbidden to dance together . . . until first a band and then a ballroom broke the rules. Machito and His Afro-Cubans hit the scene with a brand-new sound, blending jazz trumpets and saxophones with Latin maracas and congas creating Latin jazz, music for the head, the heart, and the hips. Then the Palladium Ballroom issued a bold challenge to segregation and threw open its doors to all.

Illustrated with verve and told through real-life characters who feature in an afterword, ¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! portrays the power of music and dance to transcend racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries.


Publishers Weekly

When the band Machito and His Afro-Cubans "make a brand-new sound called Latin jazz" in 1940, everyone in New York City dances to it--Italian people such as Millie, and Puerto Rican folks like Pedro, the best dancers in their respective neighborhoods. But because of segregation, people from various backgrounds can't dance together until 1948, when the Palladium opens its doors to all. The mambo dance accompanies the "bold new music," and Millie and Pedro, creating "mambo moves for two," eventually become the best mambo team in the U.S. Robbins's prose is as musical as his subject: "The melodies were/ bright and brilliant./ They made you want to listen./ The beats were lilting and lively./ They made you want to move." Velasquez's characteristic, near-photorealistic illustrations, rendered in oil paint in a palette reflecting the time, add a dynamic fluidity to the historical atmosphere of this enlightening narrative nonfiction title. Back matter includes an author's note with further historical context. Ages 7-9. (Oct.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5--Hips, feet, arms--everything swishes, sways, and shimmies with the mambo. The rhythm is irresistible. Whoever hears it has to move! It doesn't matter who the dancers are or where they're from--everyone loves the new Latin jazz sound of "Machito y sus Afrocubanos." However, this is the 1940s, and each race has to stick with its own kind. All groups have separate neighborhoods and separate dance halls. No one is allowed to mix--until 1948 when the New York Palladium bucks the system and opens its doors to everyone. For the first time, people of every color dance together to the electrifying beat of Machito's band. Soon Millie, an Italian American, and Pedro, a Puerto Rican, find themselves burning up the floor together with Harry and Rose, a Jewish couple, and African Americans Ernie and Dotty. The color barrier is broken! The movement toward civil rights has begun and there is no going back. Robbins's snappy language and smoking turn of phrase brings the mambo and all its followers to life. Lázaro's Spanish translation sizzles. "Las maracas repiqueteaban. Las congas retumbaban." Velasquez's illustrations send sparks flying off each full-bleed spread. There's nothing static in these dynamic, full-movement portrayals of humans expressing the unadulterated joy of popping music and uninhibited dancing. The author's note includes historical and biographical information. VERDICT Fiery and rhythmic storytelling surges to the beat of the conga--a must-have selection for all ages.--Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County P.L., Tucson, AZ

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Robbins's snappy language and smoking turn of phrase brings the mambo and all its followers to life. Lázaro's Spanish translation sizzles. . . . Velasquez's illustrations send sparks flying off each full-bleed spread. . . . Fiery and rhythmic storytelling surges to the beat of the conga—a ­must-have selection for all ages.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Robbins's prose is as musical as his subject. . . Velasquez's characteristic, near-photorealistic illustrations, rendered in oil paint in a palette reflecting the time, add a dynamic fluidity to the historical atmosphere of this enlightening narrative nonfiction title.
—Publishers Weekly

Dynamic text goes hand in hand with vibrant, motion-filled illustrations to tell the story of the Latin sound that swept through New York and then the country in the 1940s and '50s. . . . Exuberant, just like the dance.
—Kirkus Reviews

In Robbins and Velasquez's hands, this early challenge to segregation makes for a lively, compelling piece of history.
—The Horn Book
Dean Robbins
Dean Robbins is the author of Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing; Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women's Right to Vote; and Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and a lifelong student of jazz. Dean Robbins lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Eric Velasquez is the award-winning illustrator of Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, which received a Walter Dean Myers Award and an SCBWI Golden Kite Award. He has also won a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award and a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award. Eric Velasquez lives in Hartsdale, New York.
Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9781536206081
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
November 20, 2021
Series
-
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

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