Thursday, September 15, 2022

Under the Mambo Moon

You can't celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic culture without talking about music. The Spanish and Latin beats are embedded in the foundations of Spain and Latin America. One of my favorite books to recommend when it comes to introducing children to the music of Latin America is Under the Mambo Moon. We got a copy of it years ago and it still has a special place in my heart. It is such an original way to talk about music that it engages young readers. Here's a review I wrote a few years ago for the Latin Baby Book Club.

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A chapter book highlighting Latin American music

Under the Mambo Moon
by Julia Durango
illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck

My familia loves music - especially anything with a Latin rhythm. So I was overjoyed to find the new book, Under the Mambo Moon. Inside the pages of this unique story, readers can explore various types of Latin American music - from Colombia’s cumbia to the Dominican merengue to the candombé of Uruguay.

The story line itself is a little unusual. The first thought that came to my mind was that this book would be perfect for a play. Young Marisol is the narrator. She helps out her Papi at his music store where people come in to buy their favorite songs. Papi says, “You can read people’s souls by the music they listen to.” (Looking at my CD and record collection, I wonder what my soul is saying? I’ve got everything from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 to SpyroGyra to Yiddish-American Klezmer music. Oy.)

Interspersed throughout the book, are brief poems told by each customer who enters the store to buy the music of their homeland. João is a fan of bossa nova, while Professor Soto prefers Andean tunes that he has heard played on a zampoña player. Mr. and Mrs. Mayer are tango dancers, but young Gabriel loves the vallenatos of Colombia.

VandenBroeck cleverly uses color to help the reader distinguish between the main story line and the individual poems for each character. I appreciate the careful attention that he gave to depict each dance accurately with special attention to costumes and musical instruments.

The only thing that would make this book better would be an actual CD to accompany it and provide examples of each musical style. However, Putumayo has some great albums that would complement this book nicely. Or you can visit All Around This World's website and listen to music from different countries.

I also like how at the back of the book, the author includes a brief history of the amazingly diverse Latin American music and dance. Durango talks about the influence of indigenous, European, and African cultures on the rhythms and even the musical instruments used to create the various styles of music. She also includes a short description of each music style mentioned in the story.

Under the Mambo Moon is written in English with some embedded Spanish text. This book is best suited for children ages 4 and up.

Parents and teachers: This book is an awesome resource if you are studying music, Latin America, culture, traditions, multiculturalism, the colonization of the Americas, etc.

Buy your own copy of Under the Mambo Moon!

You may also purchase a copy directly from the Charlesbridge website:

Albums that complement this book

Rumba, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha

Samba Bossa Nova

Latin Playground

Happy reading!

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