I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Juba! by Walter Dean Myers
Also by this author: Monster, Kick, Carmen, All the Right Stuff, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Monster: A Graphic Novel
Published by Harper Collins on October 13th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, People & Places, United States, African American, Historical, Civil War Period (1850-1877), Biographical
Format: ARC, eARC
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In New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers's last novel, he delivers a gripping story based on the life of a real dancer known as Master Juba, who lived in the nineteenth century.
This engaging historical novel is based on the true story of the meteoric rise of an immensely talented young black dancer, William Henry Lane, who influenced today's tap, jazz, and step dancing. With meticulous and intensive research, Walter Dean Myers has brought to life Juba's story.
The novel includes photographs, maps, and other images from Juba's time and an afterword from Walter Dean Myers's wife about the writing process of Juba!
The thing about Walter Dean Myers’s books is that there is something for everybody. Walter Dean Myers was a prolific writer with books about young adults of color that span a wide variety of genre and situations. Juba!: A Novel is the last book that Myers wrote and for the most part it is a book that is a bit of a celebration – at least of dancing and of being passionate about something. As with most of Myers’s books, I believe firmly that this is a book that should be in all school libraries because there is a desperate need for diverse books and for people of all backgrounds to see themselves reflected in books that go beyond the typical bits of history – so for Black people slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Thankfully, Juba! goes above and beyond and explores a part of history that is not typically delved into in the fiction that I personally read.
Juba by Walter Dean Myers is about an African American young man named William Henry Lane who lives in the Five Points of New York City set in the pre Civil War Era. William Henry Lane is a free man. He loves dancing, so much so that his dancer name is Master Juba. He is the best dancer around. It is his dream to be a famous dancer and to earn his living from doing what he loves so much. This book is the story of Juba‘s life. It describes the opportunities he has come across. It describes his early life with friends Stubby and Jack and how they are all chasing dreams. It describes his journey to London. There are mentions of minstrel shows that make use of Blackface and how Juba refuses to lower himself to making a mockery of his race. This book is actually quite an interesting look at a historical figure that I previously knew nothing about. And even better? It is historical fiction about a person of color that is not a story about slavery or the Civil Rights Movement, because as well all know Black people exisited in history for more than those events, despite what historical fiction may tell us.
As a character, Juba is admirable. He has so determined to succeed. This makes him quite the role model, ya know? Like, I think that it is important to show characters who are headstrong and will not give up despite society telling them that they cannot succeed. Beyond being headstrong, Juba is also stubborn, which goes hand in hand. I liked that he was not perfect and that he did have his faults. He does come across as arrogant at times and well, it makes sense given that he is genuinely talented.
Adding to the narrative of Walter Dean Myers’s Juba!: A Novel are the addition of pictures of primary sources with articles and photographs about and of the real life Juba. This story is a very fast read. There is a timeline at the end and a note from Myers’s wife about the research that he put into it. I think that Juba! would be a great book for reluctant readers. It is not a hard read at all. I do wish that it had gone a bit deeper into Juba’s emotions and such and really explored the cultural attitudes toward him at the time. Parts of this book do feel reductive and simple. However, I do like that this is a book that is approachable – meaning it should not intimidate young readers. In all, I absolutely do recommend this book for reluctant readers and people looking for stories about underrepresented people.