Congratulations to Linda Levrault, who won a signed copy of Mirandy and Brother Wind! Although my giveaway is closed to new entries, I hope you will still enjoy the post.
Last weekend, my six-year old, my four-year old, and I spent a lovely afternoon at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC, watching Mirandy and Brother Wind--an outstanding new children's musical based on the award-winning picture book by the same name.
The book Mirandy and Brother Wind, written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, was published by Dragonfly Books in 1988, winning both a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award the following year. It is the sweet story of a little girl named Mirandy who dreams of winning her town's junior cakewalk by catching "Brother Wind" and making him be her dancing partner...
Swish! Swish! It was spring, and Brother Wind was back. He come high steppin' through Ridgetop, dressed in his finest and training that long, silvery wind cape behind him. Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!
The cakewalk is a couples dance that originated in America around 1900. According to the African American Registry, it was created as a way for Black slaves to make fun of their White masters' ballroom dances. But rather than attempting to explain the dance any more myself, I thought I would turn to someone who knows best. In a note at the front of Mirandy and Brother Wind, author Patricia C. McKissack explains it like this:
First introduced in America by slaves, the cakewalk is a dance rooted in Afro-American culture. It was performed by couples who strutted and pranced around a large square, keeping time with fiddle and banjo music. As the dancers paraded by, doing flamboyant kicks and complicated swirls and turns, the elders judged them on appearance, grace, precision, and originality of moves. The winning couple took home a cake.
One of the most exciting parts of our day at the Atlas Performing Arts Center last weekend was meeting illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who attended the performance and participated in some pre-show and after-show events. In case you aren't familiar with Mr. Pinkney's work, he is one of the most celebrated children's illustrators out there, most recently recognized with a Caldecott Medal for the wordless picture book The Lion and the Mouse.
As a little side note, my husband is into photography and so bought our six-year-old a camera for her birthday earlier this year. She had it with her last weekend, so we asked Mr. Pinkney to pose for a photograph. He told my daughter to look at the photo closely. "Do you see me, or do you see Brother Wind?" he asked.
This of course piqued my interest, and it turns out that when Mr. Pinkney was illustrating Mirandy and Brother Wind, he asked his wife Gloria Jean Pinkney (who is also an author) to take pictures of him "being" Brother Wind. My understanding is that he then used the photos to help develop the character. So, in a way, Brother Wind is a self-portrait of sorts. Such a fun anecdote, I thought.
The musical Mirandy and Brother Wind was produced by Adventure Theatre in collaboration with African Continuum Theatre and the Dance Institute of Washington. It's running at the Atlas Performing Arts Center through March 13th, in case you live in the Washington, DC, area and want to try and catch a show. I highly recommend it!
I was so excited (and honored) to meet Jerry Pinkney that I had him sign an extra copy of Mirandy and Brother Wind for one of my blog readers, whom I am so grateful to have. If you would like a chance to own the book, just comment on this post by Saturday, March 12th. I'll use random.org to choose an entry, and I'll announce the winner on Sunday, March 13th. Good luck!