Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon
Susanna Reich. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86576-3
The mystery of the creative process comes through in this picture-book biography of dancer Jose Limon, born in Mexico in 1908. Reich's (Clara Shumann: Piano Virtuoso) poetic language evokes the sensual experiences of childhood that inspired the boy's artistic yearnings, while Colon's (My Mama Had a Dancing Heart) artwork, in earthy tones, captures a mood of sober intensity. When civil war causes Jose's family to flee to the United States, he takes along memories of luscious fruit, flamenco dancers and marching soldiers. Readers may feel that the boy's move from drawing and painting to dancing seems abrupt, especially when he debuts onstage just six weeks after his first dance class, but the tale of how quickly he mastered English as a youngster hints at Jose's early passion for mastering nearly everything. Colon's signature style with its visible scratch marks and swirling brushstrokes provide a grainy, textured quality that deftly combines a sense of movement and stillness, as when Jose enters a dance studio for the first time. The onomatopoeic phrases that run throughout the book help to demonstrate the richness of Jose's experiences and how he brings them to bear on his style of dance: ""He learned to be fierce like a bullfighter-¡Ole!/ Strong like a soldier-¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Uno! ¡Dos!/ And proud like a king-pum! Jose's story (he later became a world-famous choreographer) attests to the openness and perseverance that artistic passion requires. Ages 5-8.
Reviewed on: 07/25/2005