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Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango — Book Recommendation

Earlier this month, we looked at the verse novel The Crossover. Today, we’re exploring another, very different verse novel. Enjoy!

Title: Under the Mambo Moon

Author: Julia Durango

Illustrator: Fabricio VandenBroeck

Publisher: Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2011

Genre: Middle Grade novel in verse

Audience Age: 9 to 12

Themes/topics: dance, diversity, South American dances and customs, family, friends, learning from each other

Opening Sentences:

On summer nights

Papi lets me help out
at the music store.

Papi says you can
read people’s souls
by the music
they listen to;
that hearts
fly home
when the music’s
just right.

Synopsis: Through poems that seek to evoke the feel of the different Latin American dances that each features, and illustrations that show both Marisol, the main character who helps in the music store, and the friends from many countries who are transported “home” by the music and dance of their homeland, this book provides a glimpse into other cultures and a feel for the rhythm and music of the dance.

The poems help the reader imagine what it feels like to do the dance – not just to see it done, but to be actively involved. At the same time, we see the experiences of Marisol as she goes through the day helping at the store, and feel what she feels as she encounters each different person, style of music, and style of dance.

This book opens the door to learning more about different Latin American countries and cultures. There is some information at the end of the book that tells a little more about the dances and the area of the world they come from.

For Further Enrichment: There is lots of scope for learning more – from looking up what the occasional Spanish words mean, to going to the library or searching online to find recordings of the different kinds of music, to find more information about the countries, and to find out how to do the dances, and try them yourself!

Under the Mambo Moon was nominated for a Texas Bluebonnet Award in 2012-2013. At the awards website, there is a page about the book, with activities and other information.

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