01 Jul / The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Welcome to the corner of Broadway and West 139th Street in New York City: Today, Kameeka is determined that she will finally claim her rightful title as the Hula-Hoopin’ Queen of 139th Street! But today is also the beloved Miz Adeline’s birthday – “I love Miz Adeline … She’s like my very own grandmama” – and Mama needs Kameeka’s help to make Miz Adeline’s party just right.
Kameeka tries her best to do both, but in her rush, the cake comes out looking like “someone sat on it.” On her way to get more sugar (with Mama’s orders for an immediate return home), she can’t resist Jamara’s “so smug” challenge. She gives in to her “Hula-Hoopin’ itch” and the “[s]wish, swiggle, swish” goes on … and on and on.
Uh-oh. What about Miz Adeline’s needs-to-be-perfect party? What will Mama say? And what will happen to Kameeka’s claim to the royal title? Oh, dear child … how will this fateful day play out?!
Thelma Lynne Godin‘s first picture book is a boisterous mix of learning responsibility, competitive fun, working together … and appreciating hidden talents where we least expect them. Not to mention, never underestimate the power of the Hula-Hoopin’ itch, especially in the old folks, ahem!
Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton is clearly familiar with the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, reflected in her animated pages featuring a diverse cast of characters and their contagious grins, wide-eyed concern, and tenacious determination. Even more notable about her multi-layered pictures are how they enhance and augment Godin’s lively text: Check out the walls of Kameeka’s living room with walls proudly displaying an African mask, a painting of child activist Ruby Bridges (in what seems to be a nod to Norman Rockwell’s iconic The Problem We All Live With which depicts the 6-year-old Ruby’s walk flanked by officials to an all-white public school in 1960), a graduation portrait seemingly of Kameeka’s mother, as well as the partial view of a painting of four multi-generational women walking with two carrying the Holy Bible. Hoops and parties may be important, but the more lasting celebrations are for heritage, education, and family.
With summer whooshing by (July already?!) and temperatures rising, Kameeka and her hula hoop are a delightful diversion to share with your energetic young ‘uns. And then when those sidewalks begin to cool, you’ll have the inspiration to go out and do some swishing and hoopin’ of your own!