Let’s Fly! Learn to Double Dutch with Africa!

Fly by Brittany Thurman

The picture book Fly (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 01/11/2022), written by Brittany J. Thurman and illustrated by Anna Cunha, will definitely have you soaring.

When Africa learns there is a Double Dutch Competition (where you show what you’re made of), she sets her mind on becoming a Double Dutch Legend, just like her Nana.  Africa’s brother laughs and tells her you can’t do something you’ve never done before.  It’s true, Africa has never actually tried to Double Dutch before, but she doesn’t intend to let that stop her.

Africa is Ready to Fly!

Africa has a birthmark

Africa knows she can do it with a little help from her friends.  She has the memories of her Nana, her bestie best Bianca’s dance moves, her friend Omar’s steps, and her classmate Whitney’s cartwheels, back flips, and somersaults.  Plus, Africa has a birthmark in the shape of her name, and it’s always shown her what she’s made of.

If Africa can bring everything together, she might just win the Double Dutch competition.  Then she’ll be flying like the birds in the sky.Africa Double Dutch with Friends

Author Brittany J. Thurman

It’s easy to see what inspired Brittany J. Thurman to write Fly.  As Ms. Thurman states: “I have always had an affinity for stories told by my grandmother. Those same stories hold space in my writing today.”  Important themes of family, heritage, community, and faith in oneself all shine brightly in this beautifully illustrated picture book.  If nothing else, please, please, please visit her webpage to see an animated Africa showing us how she can Double Dutch.  Africa’s feet are so fast, and she jumps so high, she’s practically soaring with the birds going by.  I guarantee it will make you smile!

fearless boulevard of dreamsBrittany J. Thurman’s newest book, Fearless:  Boulevard of Dreams (Aladdin), written with Mandy Gonzalez (known for her role in the musical Hamilton), comes out April 5, 2022.  The second book in the Fearless series, this middle grade book is about a group of young thespians who travel back in time to the 1950s Broadway (A great book for you theater lovers!).

A_Story_About_AfiyaIllustrator Anna Cunha

Anna Cunha, a Brazilian illustrator, created the lovely illustrations in Fly.  She has illustrated more than 30 books, including A Story about Afiya (Lantana 2020), written by James Berry, which was included in the New York Times’ Best Children’s Books of 2020.  The characters’ rosy cheeks and flowing movements are perfect for telling Africa’s story in Fly.

The History of Double Dutch

When I was a kid, I liked to jump rope, but I never learned how to Double Dutch.  To learn more, I decided to do a little research on double Dutch “rope skipping.”  Double Dutch has actually been around for thousands of years.  It became popular in New York City back in the 1930s.

In 1973, David A. Walker, then a New York City Police Community Affairs Detective, joined by his partner Detective Ulysses Williams, developed the street game of Double Dutch after recognizing that girls in the neighborhood had less opportunities to play sports but had perfected the Double Dutch.  The first Double Dutch tournament was held on February 14, 1974, with nearly 600 fifth, sixth, seventh, and eight grade students participating.

In 1978, the Fantastic Four, from the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, started participating in Double Dutch at their junior high.  By 1980, the Fantastic Four won the World Wide Double Dutch Championship.  They appeared in “Pick Up Your Feet: The Double Dutch Show,” a 1981 independent documentary filmed in New York City.

You can read about the history of Double Dutch in the black community at PushBlack Now.  There’s even a National Double Dutch League (founded by David A. Walker) and International Double Dutch Federation!  If you have a minute, watch the 2020 National Double Dutch League 2020 Holiday Classic competition – these kids are amazing!

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