Game of Freedom: Mestre Bimba and the Art of Capoeira

Abrams. Oct. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419764585.
Gr 3-6–A fascinating account of the Afro-Brazilian art form of Capoeira, which combined music, fighting, theatrics, and dance. The street performers were mostly descendants of enslaved people brought to Brazil. Capoeira was illegal and shows were broken up by the police. Manuel dos Reis Machado, known as “Bimba,” loved Capoeira and fought the disdain most Brazilians had for it. Patiently, Bimba took Capoeira from a street activity to a sport. After learning Capoeira, Bimba added new moves and called it regional, opening an academy to teach the style, setting rules, and creating standards for his students. Bimba challenged other Capoeira performers through newspaper stories and hosted tournaments in a park, selling tickets to them. Through these efforts, Capoeira was eventually recognized by government officials and its illegal status ended; Bimba achieved his goal of preserving and expanding Capoeira for the people of Brazil and the world. Highly stylized drawings, in earth tones, show the enslaved ancestors of the Capoeira performers in their shadows. The participants’ poses show the acrobatic and martial arts aspect of Capoeira, and musicians playing instruments reinforce the importance of music in the shows. Back matter includes a glossary, extensive author’s notes, end notes, and bibliography.
VERDICT A great introduction to Capoeira and the persistence of Bimba to move this street performance into the mainstream. This masterpiece of illustration and narrative will appeal to readers across categories of martial arts, dance, and more.

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