Monday, November 8, 2010

Song, Dance, and Music Collide in 'Olé Flamenco'

George Ancona is an award-winning photographer and author with a rich Mexican-American heritage. According to his website, he considers himself a "people photographer" and loves to find people who can teach him new things about interesting topics. He then designs children's books using the photographs he takes and the stories he collects. 

Olé Flamenco (just published by multicultural publisher Lee & Low Books) is Ancona's latest creation. He actually studied flamenco guitar years ago and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the flamenco community thrives. So, it is only fitting that he would write this book, which is primarily a history and portrait of the art form known as flamenco.

Janira Cordova (the girl featured on the cover) is the youngest member of a Spanish dance company called Flamenco's Next Generation. In the book, Ancona follows Janira as she rehearses flamenco with her company and performs at the annual Spanish Market celebration in Santa Fe. Along the way, readers learn about the Gypsy origins of flamenco and how the various components--song, music, and dance--developed over time.

Words and photos show the "rapid stamping of the heels and thumping of the soles" and the twists and turns of the arms, hands, and fingers that help define the dance. They also show the sharp, strong movements of male dancers and the flair and passion with which women swish their skirts back and forth through the air.

The back of the book contains a glossary and pronunciation guide for Spanish terms, as well as a list of references. Kirkus reviewed the book positively here, but the reviewer suggested that a list of recommended recordings and videos would have been a nice addition. As I'm not an expert in flamenco, I can't really address this comment. But I did happen to find a YouTube video of Flamenco's Next Generation performing, and I think I even see Janira in it.

During the video, you might hear some of the audience members hollering "Olé," which is a shout of approval and encouragement. To this book, as well, I say Olé!

This is my first time participating in Nonfiction Monday--a day when bloggers all over the kidlitosphere blog about nonfiction books for kids. You can read the whole round-up of posts at Shelf-employed. And, before I go, thanks to Lee & Low for my review copy of Olé Flamenco.


  1. Great post! I need to find this book and share it with our Spanish and PE teachers. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi, Jeff. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you think this will be useful to the teachers at your school. In one of my Spanish classes in high school, my teacher actually let me and a friend choreograph a dance to a Gloria Estefan song for one of our projects. I don't think we learned much about Spanish from doing it (other than maybe memorizing the Spanish parts of the song), but it was a lot of fun. Incorporating Ole Flamenco into class would be a bit more educational :)

  3. I so enjoyed getting to know more about flamenco while on business in Argentina a few years ago. Now I look forward to getting a copy of this book, thank you for reporting on it!

  4. So glad you decided to join in Nonfiction Monday. I haven't seen Olé Flamenco yet, but I'll keep an eye out for it.


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