Sunday, September 27, 2020

Lupe Wong Won't Dance

Higuera, Donna Barba.  Lupe Wong Won't Dance.
September 8th 2020 by Levine Querido
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lupe has very strong opinions about many things that go on at school, so when she finds out that there will be a square dancing unit in gym class, she is not shy about letting her gym teacher, principal, and mother know that this is not acceptable. She researches the song they are learning "Cotton-Eyed Joe", and presents Principal Singh and Coach with her evidence linking the song to topics that will corrupt young minds. The class starts again, using "Turkey in the Straw" instead. Lupe is not happy; she has made a deal with her uncle that if she can get all A's in her classes, he will introduce her to Fu Li, a baseball player who is "Mexinese" or "Chinacan", just like Lupe. Baseball is one way Lupe stays connected to her father, who passes away a few years ago, and she also identifies strongly as an athlete. No matter what problem Lupe finds with square dancing, Coach and Principal Singh find a way to accommodate her. It's archaic and sexist for the girls to be asked to dance? Next year, the course will be gender neutral, and there are other changes made. Lupe's friends are used to her impassioned pleas for change, but she does manage to irritate her best friend, Andi. She is also worried that her other best friend, Niles (who is described as being on the autism spectrum), might be becoming friends with the annoying Gordon, as the two bond over their love of science fiction films and graphic novels. Lupe's mother is a kindergarten teacher in her district, so is alerted every time Lupe makes her displeasure known at school. Finally realizing that she is going to have to dance, Lupe asks her brother Paolo for help... and ends up being chosen for the dancing show case at the school festival. Her attempts to get that changed result in the school adopting a multicultural platform for the program, so there are other cultures represented, but Lupe still has to dance. Will Lupe be able to make amends with her friends and get the grades she needs to meet Fu Li?
Strengths: There are a couple of other books that deal with square dancing in middle school phys ed class, but this is the only one where the plot is centered on it! In schools that still have phys ed, it can be a huge concern for students, so this was good to see. I really liked the characters in this one; Lupe's mother and her weird Crockpot dinners, Paolo, who alternately aggrieves and supports his sister, the grandparents, who try to outdo each other with food, Coach, who has a fleeting, wistful moment about what her own school phys ed experience might have been like if she didn't have to dance with only boys, and Miles and Gordon, who are both exuberantly themselves. It was also good to see that Lupe's concerns were taken seriously, even when she was completely off the mark.
Weaknesses: Lupe was not a pleasant character, and I worried that she was acting out because she was having trouble dealing with her father's death. I definitely side with the grandmother, who says "It's better to try and forget", but children don't necessarily have the tools to do this. There are some things that seem unrealistically exaggerated; Lupe raises $12,000 on Students won't be at all bothered by this, but I wondered how patient the principal would have really been with Lupe's repeated visits to her office.
What I really think: I should have suspected that square dancing was a tool for white supremacy; I can't think it's really taught that much anymore. It's certainly not at my school. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed square dancing and even looked into joining a group 30 odd years ago, only to find that everyone in the group was over 60 years old. This book was a fun title addressing interesting topics.

I try to post about books very close to the release date, but these have moved around a bit. I feel like Lupe really wants to hang out with Effa. 

Williams, Andrea. Baseball's Leading Lady : Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues 
5 January 2021 Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I was expecting a biography of Effa Manley, but this turned out to be one of the better discussions about the Negro Leagues and Black baseball players that I've seen. SO MUCH information on so many different topics, but also beautifully arranged with Manley's life as a framework. There were a decent number of black and white illustrations (since this deals with the 1850s to the 1950s, there was little else available), and the wide range of information makes this a great starting point for students who are looking for different people or events for history day projects. Jackie Robinson is a fantastic historical figure for so many reasons, but there are also hundreds of books about him. I would love to see some of the other Black players highlighted, especially those from the 1800s. I'm also a little fascinated (and yet repulsed) by Branch Rickey and would love to see more about him. Definitely purchasing, and still hoping that the #WNDB movement and the current sociopolitical climate will finally start to get more biographies about previously unheralded Black figures. 

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I started to read Lupe Wong Won't Dance but I also found her unpleasant and didn't read far enough to see if that changed. I'll have to give it another go. We did have square dancing and fox trotting in school and I didn't much care for dancing in a gym suit. We also had square dancing nights at the Methodist church we went to and they were more fun, but maybe it was the potluck suppers I really liked. I did not know square dancing was a tool for white supremacy either.