Katherine Leiner, , illus. by Edel Rodriguez. . Hyperion, $15.99 (, $15.99 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0646-1

"After Papa died, Mama stopped dancing," opens this affecting tale narrated by a Cuban child who misses the evenings of the past. Sofia remembers when her parents danced together and "Papa held the beat, and Mama, the rhythm," and the sensation they created at the annual Havana carnival, where the crowd marveled at their dancing. Now men line up in the courtyard in hopes of becoming Mama's dance partner, but "her heart is not in it. Her skirts stay in the closet, her feet, bare." Mama's favorite suitor is Eduardo, a kind fellow who displays his cooking talents in the kitchen but demonstrates little skill on the dance floor. Readers may not be surprised at the dancing partner Mama chooses, but they are likely to find the story's conclusion roundly satisfying. Into a narrative that is intermittently lyrical and wordy, Leiner subtly weaves Spanish phrases that youngsters will easily interpret given their context. Newcomer Rodriguez lights up the spreads and spot art, moving easily from cozy indoor scenes to the vibrant Havana streets and festival mood of carnival. His illustrations emanate a luminescence and energy befitting the story's theme and setting, capturing details of Cuban life as well as these likable characters' personalities. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)