Review of Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira

Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira
by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.
10/23    9781419764585    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781647008253    $15.54
Spanish ed.  9781419768507    $19.99

In his accessibly written picture-book biography of Manoel dos Reis Machado (1899–1974), known as Mestre Bimba, Tonatiuh (A Land of Books, rev. 1/23, and many others) explores the rise of capoeira in Brazil from an illegal activity to a national treasure. Bimba, who lived in the port city of Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia, learned capoeira at the age of twelve from a sea captain. He excelled at the sport and created a new style of capoeira, combining various styles, and eventually started an academy to bring structure and legitimacy to the game. Bimba altered the course of capoeira, emphasizing its “celebration of his Bahian culture” as a game played with music, dance, fighting, and flourishes. Tonatiuh’s illustrations are hand-drawn and digitally colored in his distinctive, iconic two-dimensional style. Bold lines on colorful spreads show the movement of capoeira; on several pages, Tonatiuh ingeniously uses shadows to acknowledge the characters’ connections to the enslaved Africans who were Bimba’s ancestors. A superb tribute to an individual and to capoeira. Back matter includes a glossary, an author’s note with color photographs, endnotes, and a bibliography. Concurrently published in Spanish as Juego de libertad: Mestre Bimba y el arte de la capoeira.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Yesica Hurd

Yesica Hurd is a children's librarian at the Berkeley Public Library at the Central Children's Room.

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