Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Do You Wokka-Wokka?

by Elizabeth Bluemle
illustrated by Randy Cecil
Candlewick | August 11, 2009

In this joyful celebration of dancing for dancing's sake on a "fine old sunny day," a child declares "Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka." As he makes his way out of his apartment and down the block with his orange and white cat in tow, he asks each child he meets the same question: "How do you wokka-wokka?" Each answers in a unique, adorable, word-fun way from "like flamingos in a flocka" to "like a clock go ticka-tocka" to "at your door go knocka-knocka."

The original child meets more and more city kids with skin every color of the brown spectrum and they boogie on down the blocks together. Finally, on a happy double spread they all gather in the street and the first adults in the book appear. The children are still dancing their moves and new children are checking them out - clapping, chasing a balloon, eating cotton candy. With a page turn, yet another double spread declares "We all gonna rocka/cakewalk/till we droppa." And now, street vendors are there, folks are holding hands, sitting on stoops, and hanging out windows and doors. A block party! For no reason but because, as the final page reveals, "Yeah, ya gotta wokka!"

The art is awesome. Simple and lovely, capturing the urban setting perfectly. The white space used while each child shows their moves allows for uncluttered individual expression. Each child is adorable, and the diversity represented in these few city blocks is refreshing. The cat and pigeons who are on most every page and the dogs at the block party bring even more diversity to each page. 

According to the back flap of the book, Bluemle's young nephew, when he was 2, started asking people "How do you wokka-wokka?" and while he appeared to know what that meant, nobody else did. So they made up funny dance moves to answer. And now, she's put that kernel of a moment in the life of her family into this delightful book.

The read-aloud possibilities for this book are endless. Voice, hand, and body variations galore could come from putting a bunch of preschoolers in a room and reading this book with them. I can't imagine anyone, child or adult, who wouldn't be compelled to do a little wokka-wokka-ing of their own during or after reading this book!

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