RAP A TAP TAP: HERE'S BOJANGLES - THINK OF THAT
By Donna Peckett
Sept 2010 Review Submission
“Rap A Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles – Think of That” by Leo & Diane Dillon (The Blue Sky Press, 2002)
It swings, it sings, it shouts ….
A picture book for young children and tap lovers of any age, this is beautifully illustrated and rhythmically written glimpse of the great tapper, Bill Robinson. Even the cover illustration grabs the reader with its total movement and actually leads you into the story of one of America’s most accomplished rhythm dancers. The dedication is to Bill Robinson and to the visual artist, Aaron Douglas. I looked at some of the work of Aaron Douglas (1899 – 1979, painter and major force of the Harlem Renaissance), and was impressed by way in which the Dillons’ illustrations capture the feeling and form of Douglas’s own paintings.
What strikes me vividly about this book, both its verse and illustration, is the way it moves, actually dances from page to page. It sings to the reader and to the listener. The repetition of the phrase, Rap a tap tap – think of that, begins the book, travels you through the story to the end of the tale. It’s like a tap riff itself. When I read this book to young children, they actually hear the rhythm of Rap a tap tap – think of that and love repeating it over and over. This book is a great way to teach pre-schoolers the meaning and feeling of the word “rhythm,” as well as “call and response.” As the Diane and Leo Dillon write of Robinson, “He didn’t just dance, he made art with his feet.”
And more… this big picture book deals with challenges that Robinson confronted because of his race. The phrase, “He danced past doors; some were open, some closed,” tactfully approaches the question of racism in popular American dance of the early part of the 20th century. I often read this book to young children when I introduce the musical concept of rhythm. This section of the book seems to really touch 5 year olds. They grasp the meaning of the words and talk about how it must feel to have doors that will not open for you just because of the way you look.
This treasure of a book gives a real voice to authentic tap dance in a way that many young children may not have heard. “He danced many rhythms that were seldom the same. Rap a tap tap – think of that! Indeed! And it all works for grown-ups too. Be sure to check out the cool Afterword and noting of National Tap Dance Day.
Donna Peckett, is an actor, tap dancer and arts educator. She has taught Creative Movement and Drama for Young Children for 30 years. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin and is co-producing artistic director of TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater.