Jake at Gymnastics
by Rachel Isadora; illus. by the author
Preschool Paulsen/Penguin 32 pp.
6/14 978-0-399-16048-6 $14.99 g
As she did with Bea at Ballet (rev. 7/12), Isadora shows a group of roly-poly toddlers enjoying a beginning class, this time in gymnastics, with an Asian American boy as the focus. Teachers Dave and Toshi lead five girls and four boys through activities such as stretching, tumbling, walking on a low balance beam, and hanging on a parallel bar for as long as they can. The text is minimal (“We all take turns doing somersaults”), but the real joy comes through Isadora’s sprightly illustrations that combine pencil and ink line drawings with swathes of oil paint to delineate clothing and some of the equipment. Few other picture book artists have as good an understanding of the toddler’s center of gravity as Isadora, and when she uses her expertise to show them hopping, tumbling, balancing, and pretending to fly like birds, you can’t help but enjoy the show. Best of all is the page of young gymnasts on the bouncing balls. Each one appears to be enjoying his or her own moment of zen — a bit of private happiness in the midst of a busy class.
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.