cover image Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira

Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira

Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4197-6458-5

This movement-filled biography about Brazilian capoeira mestre Bimba (1899–1974) begins with his youth in Salvador, Brazil, where he’s taken with the combination of “music, fighting, theatrics, and dance.” Practiced by Black men who are, like Bimba, descendants of Africans enslaved by the Portuguese, capoeira is disdained by “predominantly white” authorities, who outlaw playing it in the streets, beating and incarcerating the capoeiristas they catch. To reduce stigma against capoeira, Bimba develops his own form, called regional, which he opens a school to teach in 1932. Through rigorous teaching and official competition, Bimba slowly raises the profile of regional until capoeira is not only decriminalized but also declared by Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas “the only truly national sport.” Tonatiuh’s signature-style illustrations employ fluid motion to simulate capoeira’s graceful acrobatics, while lengthy informative text conveys the history of Bimba and of the once-persecuted Afro-Brazilian cultural expression. An author’s note and glossary conclude. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)