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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Juba This, Juba That, written by Helaine Becker and illustrated Ron Lightburn. Tundra, 2011. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Juba up, Juba down,
Juba running all around.
Juba here, Juba there,
Juba going to the fair."

In front matter we are told that 'traditional juba hand clapping games originated in Nigeria.' They were passed from one generation to the next as a reminder of home and to provide comfort while away from family and village. Slaves use the lilt of these traditional games to set a work rhythm in North America. And so, we know this game form.

Juba This, Juba That is a popular example of these chants. Helaine Becker and Ron Lightburn team up to create a nighttime adventure for a young boy and his feline visitor. The boy awakens to follow the spunky cat to a carnival, where they experience the magic of the mirror house and more. It is not until they have enjoyed the many pleasures of the fair that they are ready to return to slumber and a gentle slowing of this lively clapping song.

The author chooses word opposites to set the tone for her interpretation of this traditional rhyming game. Children will soon be reading along and wanting to add their own two line verses. Your toes will be tapping and your head nodding as you share it with little ones.

Ron Lightburn uses a palette of primary colors to bring light and life to the lively verses. His cool blues and gentle moonlight create a dreamy mood as the two make their way to the much brighter lights of the carnival itself. Using diagonal lines for his backgrounds he evokes motion as the boy and his companion explore their new environs.

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