- Black Culture & Identity
- Harlem Renaissance
- Time Travel
- Tap Dancing
This book is really clever, and I love the idea of time travel that other people remember. Ailey is a talented dancer, but he has an utterly crushing tryout for The Wiz. When Ailey talks with his Grampa abut it, he’s told where to find some tap shoes that Grampa has had for years. These shoes also represent the biggest regret of Grampa’s life, he had the opportunity to tryout and follow his dream but was too nervous (much like Ailey). When Ailey puts on the shoes, he’s thrust back into 1930’s Harlem and must find his Grampa and convince him to go through with the tryout.
Author Leah Henderson does a fantastic job creating a fantasy world that is so similar to our own, the reader almost wishes they were the ones who put on the tap shoes. I love the use of character names within the book as well, and the way they connect with historic Black figures. Most apparently is Ailey, but I loved how his classmate (and arch rival) Mahalia Jackson nods to her namesake by having a brilliant singing voice. In the back of the book is information about how all of the names and places referenced are significant, and purposefully included in the book.
A lot of books I’ve read with part of the plot being about time travel center around nobody finding out about the time travel. Henderson cleverly makes the story about Ailey seeking out his family, and changing their entire familial course of history for the better. Not only is this book deftly written, but it can also be a wonderful historical book to read, with so much further investigation possible with the information about the names in the back! Black Culture is at the forefront of this story, heartfelt connections to ancestry and what each of us is born to do.
This book was kindly sent by Sterling Kids, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to review it. All opinions and decision to review is my own!
Leah Henderson is the author of the middle grade novels The Magic in Changing Your Stars and One Shadow on the Wall, a Children’s Africana Book Award notable, and a Bank Street Best Book. Her picture books include Mamie on the Mound, and the forthcoming Together We March and A Day For Rememberin’.
Raised in Andover, Massachusetts, Leah has fond memories of getting up to all kinds of shenanigans that often made for great tall tales told late into the night.
Because many of the books she read as a child did not resemble the world she saw, her earliest stories came from a need to finish the tales and follow the real-life achievements and journeys of people and places she saw and learned about on her travels that were often overlooked. Through seeing the world, Leah has witnessed the richness that can be found within everyone’s individual story. That is why writing the world she sees is so vitally important to her.