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Cover image for José! : born to dance : the story of José Limón
José! : born to dance : the story of José Limón
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2005.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
610 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
In 1908 a baby boy was born in Culiacan, Mexico, kicking like a roped steer. BAM! BAM! BAM! His name was Jose Limon. Though he and his family fled civil war in their homeland by escaping to the United States when Jose was just seven years old, he would never forget the sounds and movements of his birthplace. Then Jose followed his heart to New York City. He fell in love with the shimmering city that towered above him: marble, stone, brick, and steel. He wanted to give a gift to the world and discovered the world of dance. There was no stopping Jose Limon, who went on to become one of the greatest modern dancers who ever lived. Award-winning author Susanna Reich and acclaimed illustrator Raul Colon tell the story of this great Mexican dancer in a picture book biography as beautiful and graceful as Jose's dance itself.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book E 792.8 REI 1 1

On Order



José was a boy with a song in his heart and a dance in his step. Born in Mexico in 1908, he came into the world kicking like a steer, and grew up to love to draw, play the piano, and dream. José's dreaming took him to faraway places. He dreamed of bullfighters and the sounds of the cancan dancers that he saw with his father. Dance lit a fire in José's soul.
With his heart to guide him, José left his family and went to New York to dance. He learned to flow and float and fly through space with steps like a Mexican breeze. When José danced, his spirit soared. From New York to lands afar, José Limón became known as the man who gave the world his own kind of dance.
Susanna Reich's lyrical text and Raúl Colón's shimmering artwork tell the story of a boy who was determined to make a difference in the world, and did. José! Born to Dance will inspire picture book readers to follow their hearts and live their dreams.

Author Notes

Susanna Reich is the author of Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso, which was named an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. A former professional dancer, Ms. Reich lives with her family in Ossining, New York.

Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw! an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine! an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a Bookpage Best Book; Susanna Reich's José! Born to Dance ; Angela's Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden's Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops . Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-This story of a young Mexican boy with dreams works better as a picture book than a true biography. Brief anecdotes, presented like a slide show, take readers from Limon's birth through a happy childhood, the Mexican civil war, immigration and adaptation to the United States, and his struggle to become a painter, and then a dancer, in New York City. Colon's watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations on textured paper give a sense of movement and life. Colors are muted, backgrounds are somewhat impressionistic, and there is more energy in the art than in the very simple text. Short sentences, Spanish words scattered about (defined both in context and in a brief glossary on the copyright page), and some rhythm and sound effects make this a good read-aloud, though the lack of emotion at such pivotal moments as the outbreak of war, a mother's death, and Limon's leaving his elderly father for New York, is a weakness. The book gives little sense of the importance of Limon's life as a dancer and choreographer, and his transition from struggling painter to successful dancer is oddly abrupt. A historical note addresses his adult life and impact on dance history. Use this as a story or to pique the interest of children in this artist, but not as a biography.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The mystery of the creative process comes through in this picture-book biography of dancer Jose Limon, born in Mexico in 1908. Reich?s (Clara Shumann: Piano Virtuoso) poetic language evokes the sensual experiences of childhood that inspired the boy?s artistic yearnings, while Colon?s (My Mama Had a Dancing Heart) artwork, in earthy tones, captures a mood of sober intensity. When civil war causes Jose?s family to flee to the United States, he takes along memories of luscious fruit, flamenco dancers and marching soldiers. Readers may feel that the boy?s move from drawing and painting to dancing seems abrupt, especially when he debuts onstage just six weeks after his first dance class, but the tale of how quickly he mastered English as a youngster hints at Jose?s early passion for mastering nearly everything. Colon?s signature style with its visible scratch marks and swirling brushstrokes provide a grainy, textured quality that deftly combines a sense of movement and stillness, as when Jose enters a dance studio for the first time. The onomatopoeic phrases that run throughout the book help to demonstrate the richness of Jose?s experiences and how he brings them to bear on his style of dance: ?He learned to be fierce like a bullfighter?!Ole!/ Strong like a soldier?!Uno! !Dos! !Uno! !Dos!/ And proud like a king?pum! Jose?s story (he later became a world-famous choreographer) attests to the openness and perseverance that artistic passion requires. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Horn Book Review

This picture book chronicles the famous dancer's childhood in Mexico, his early life in California, and his move to New York City, where a dance performance changed the course of his life. Colon's rich, textured illustrations pulse with the movement that was part of Limon's life on and off stage. Spanish words pepper the straightforward text; a historical note is appended. Bib., glos. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

This first introduction for children to renowned dancer and choreographer José Limón pairs equally soaring text and visuals. Born "kicking like a roped steer," young Limón moved with his family from Mexico to California during the Mexican Revolution, made his way to New York during the '20s, and after searching for an artistic vocation, found his life's work in the modern art dance of Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, creating "dances sweet as birdsong--TRILLIA-WEET! / Hot as the desert sun--¡Sí! ¡Sí! / Sad as broken dreams--O, soñador." Focusing mainly on Limón's childhood, Colón takes him from cradle to curtain call in a series of portraits that captures his strength and grace perfectly. Reich's narrative neatly draws together both his search for a medium of artistic expression that was right for him (he was talented in music and visual arts, too), and the influence of early incidents, sights and even sounds on his mature style. She closes with a triple "BRAVO!" that readers will certainly echo, plus an extended biographical note and a select list of resources in several media. An inspiring tribute to a major figure in the arts, featuring some of Colón's most moving, powerful work yet. (Picture book/biography. 7-9) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-4. This picture-book biography tells the story of Jose Limon, who became a legendary figure in the history of American dance. Reich punctuates the scenes of Limon's childhood in Mexico with sensory details, especially sounds: the TRILLIA-WEET! TRILLIA-WEET! of his grandmother's canary singing; the clicking heels of flamenco dancers; the cries of \xc1 Ole! \xc1 Ole! \xc1 Ole! at the bullfight; and his mama's bedtime lullaby: SORA-SORA-SO, SORA-SO. Later, Reich shows how the rhythmic sounds from Limon's childhood became inspirations for movements expressed in his dance. When civil war in Mexico leads to fighting in the streets of their town, Linon's family flees to the U.S. In elementary school, laughter at his poor English fires his determination to succeed. As an adult, he moves to New York City, discovers his passion for dance, and works hard to become a dancer and choreographer. Sensitively written and beautifully illustrated, this picture book offers a soaring portrayal of achievement. Colon's distinctive watercolor-and-colored-pencil artwork includes many strong compositions that are fundamentally narrative yet emotionally resonate and often memorable. An expressive, stately tribute. --Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2005 Booklist

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