cover image Brothers of the Knight

Brothers of the Knight

Debbie Allen. Dial Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2488-4

The Twelve Dancing Princesses have nothin' on the 12 sons of Reverend Knight, a Harlem preacher. Narrating the tale in a chatty if somewhat rambling voice, the family dog, Happy, explains that this man ""raised his sons with a firm, loving hand... but a lot was goin' on that couldn't be explained."" Actress, choreographer and producer Allen gives a familiar tale a hip spin as the brothers dance each night from one roof to the next to reach the Big Band Ballroom. There they swing till dawn, returning home with shoes ""worn to threads, messed up, torn up, stinky, dirty, tacky, jacked up."" Sunday, a sharp, attractive housekeeper with magical powers, discovers the siblings' secret, but she keeps mum, waiting instead until the kids themselves are ready to 'fess up to their dad. They don't and she quits, but all ends happily. Successfully capturing the energy of the swirling, twirling nighttime revelers, first-time children's book artist Nelson's sepia-toned illustrations possess the precision of line accorded to pen-and-inks, filled out with a full palette of oil paints. He's equally adept with the interiors of the church as with rooftop scenes of the boys whooping it up under starlit skies. A funky, fresh adaptation. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)