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Children's Fiction Africa

Juba This, Juba That

by (author) Helaine Becker

illustrated by Ron Lightburn

Initial publish date
Sep 2011
Africa, Country & Ethnic, Cats
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to 12


Traditional “juba” rhythms have a long history. They originated in Nigeria as hand-clapping games. People who were brought to the New World as slaves fought hard to keep their culture alive against terrible odds. They transformed “juba” rhythms into work songs that were passed down orally.

Juba This, Juba That is based on one of the most popular songs. With its strong beat and read-along repetition, it will delight small children. Along with all the fun there’s also fascinating history and concepts including opposites and prepositions. Children will have fun discovering the story told in the art about a boy named Juba who follows a mysterious yellow cat on a magical, middle-of-the night adventure that leaves them both happy and ready for slumber.

About the authors


Helaine Becker
est l'auteure de nombreux livres jeunesse primés. Elle a écrit plus de 80
livres, dont Raconte-moi les graphiques : L'histoire de William Playfair et
l'album illustré à succès Un porc-épic dans un sapin. Helaine
habite à Toronto, en Ontario.


HELAINE BECKER is the author of numerous of books of fiction and non-fiction for children, among them the best-selling A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and its sequel, Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells, The Haunted House That Jack Built and Little Jack Horner, Live from the Corner. Her books have won the Silver Birch Award and the CBA Libris Award and have been shortlisted for the Red Cedar, the Hackmatack and the Rocky Mountain awards. Helaine lives in Toronto with her family. Visit her at

Helaine Becker's profile page

Ron Lightburn's career as a children's book illustrator was launched with his Governor General's Award-winning artwork for Waiting for the Whales in 1991. Since then he has illustrated numerous other bestselling picture books and has become internationally renowned for his sensitive storytelling skills and range of illustration styles. For more information, visit and follow him on Twitter @ronlightburn.

Ron Lightburn's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“…Becker’s simple rhyme plays with opposites and is just right for clapping and bouncing along. Lightburn’s lively illustrations perfectly capture the joy of the nighttime escapade and extend the story. The boy and cat are set against backgrounds of diagonal streaks of cool colors that aptly convey movement and a sense of fantasy. This is a good choice for reading aloud to an active group of youngsters.”
School Library Journal
“Toronto author Helaine Becker draws on catchy Nigerian “juba” rhythms for her latest picture book…. Based on one of the most popular juba songs, Becker’s verses have an open-ended quality that urges movement and participation, and encourages readers to fit their own words into the driving beat. Lots of repetition and strong verbal rhythms are used to present concepts like in/out, big/small, near/far, and left/right, which are reinforced by the accompanying artwork of Governor General’s Literary Award-winning illustrator Ron Lightburn. Vivid against the shaded blues and greens of the background, a young boy in red pyjamas and his yellow cat dash off on a fantastic midnight adventure to a fairground, exploring the concepts with their actions…. The book is full of motion….”
Quill & Quire
“…Becker, a Toronto author, capitalizes on the traditional rhyme’s natural beat, but also adds concepts like opposites and prepositions to the lively text…. [Ron Lightburn’s…] work infuses the night with motion, colour and excitement that perfectly complement Juba’s magical adventure.”
The Chronicle Herald
“…The brightly coloured illustrations are vibrant and evocative of a dream-like experience. The young boy and his mysterious cat are connected by colour since the boy has a yellow collar and cuffs on his red pajamas, and the cat's fur is yellow. The fairground is bursting with colour with yellow and blue fireworks exploding overhead, purple and green curtains in the House of Mirrors, multi-coloured toys as prizes and swirling bluish shapes on the roller coaster. The fun-filled fair is a delight for the eyes of readers as well as the intrepid pair. Juba This, Juba That could definitely be used as a read-aloud for children at home and with students in primary classrooms. Becker's story will inspire discussion about issues as far ranging as dreams, rhythm, rhyme, opposites, fairs, dancing, mirrors, roller coasters and friendship.”
—Recommended, CM Magazine
“…Becker also has fun with the use of opposites and prepositions, and children can easily be encouraged to come up with their own rhymes to fit the pattern. Lightburn's illustrations are wonderful, rich and spirited, abounding in mystery and magic. This is a fun and engaging book that is a delight to share with others.”
Canadian Children’s Book Centre
“…The author chooses word opposites to set the tone for her interpretation of this traditional rhyming game. Children will soon be reading along and wanting to add their own two line verses. Your toes will be tapping and your head nodding as you share it with little ones. Ron Lightburn uses a palette of primary colors to bring light and life to the lively verses. His cool blues and gentle moonlight create a dreamy mood as the two make their way to the much brighter lights of the carnival itself….”
Sal’s Fiction Addiction

Librarian Reviews

Juba This, Juba That

When people were brought to America as slaves from Nigeria, they brought along their hand-clapping patterns and games. These served as an important means of helping to preserve the people’s culture through the transformation of the rhythms into work songs. These chants, passed down for generations, are popular today. One of the most popular songs was “Juba dis and Juba dat,” in which a yellow cat makes an appearance — as it also does in Helaine Becker’s new book.

One magical night, a young boy named Juba “spies a yellow cat” on his windowsill and decides to follow it. The cat leads him to a mysterious nighttime carnival, where the two of them dance, laugh at themselves in the house of mirrors, try their luck with a guessing jar and go on spooky rides. When it’s time to go back home, not only has Juba had an amazing adventure but he’s also gained a special new friend.

With a strong beat, the words here not only demand to be chanted out loud but also urge our bodies to move in response to their natural rhythm — whether we’re stomping or twirling, clapping or patching. Becker also has fun with the use of opposites and prepositions, and children can easily be encouraged to come up with their own rhymes to fit the pattern. Lightburn’s illustrations are wonderful, rich and spirited, abounding in mystery and magic. This is a fun and engaging book that is a delight to share with others.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2012. Volume 35 No. 1.

Other titles by Helaine Becker

Other titles by Ron Lightburn