Cesaria Feels the Beat

Roaring Brook. Jun. 2024. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250824967.
Gr 1-5–Cesaria, a child with brown skin and a puffy bun of brown hair, feels the beat in her feet. “She sings lyrics with her fingers.” As the time approaches for her to join the Carnival crowds with her dance troupe of other small girls, she refuses to put on the shoes that the leader says are part of the peacock costume. She can’t. She runs away to the water and whispers to the ocean: “No one understands.” The understated text has mentioned that she signs to others, but this is the only indication that Cesaria is Deaf. “The Earth radiates its heartbeat through her bare feet. The tempo tickles her toes. She moves to music only she can hear.” How to explain this? Cesaria has dignity. She cannot let down her “pride.” She returns to the troupe and by signing that peacocks do not wear shoes, kicks hers off and the others do, too. It’s a tremendous demonstration of allyship and connection that seems to rise organically from the moment. Those around Cesaria have a rudimentary knowledge of sign language, and the illustrator, who experienced hearing loss, works this seamlessly into the art. Fantastic oil paintings show a child pensive and joyful; they are also impressionistic snapshots of the boisterous Carnival. In text and art, the personal and the universal marry with ease.
VERDICT This is a picture book to enter with an open heart and share widely. It invites everyone into a celebration of dance, life, and being true to oneself.

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