At the city zoo in Rio lives a gorilla named Steve. Steve loves listening to music on the radio with his best friend, Antonio, the zookeeper. When Antonio leaves for the day, Steve feels the quiet of the night and lifts up the latch of his cage to escape and look for his friend. Luckily, he finds a big yellow hat at the tram stop to wear as the perfect disguise. But his adventure turns out to be bigger than he planned, because it’s Carnival time in Rio! Fireworks and dancers, drums and tambourines, samba whistles and trombones.
Determined to look his best for the upcoming celebration, a young Puerto Rican boy makes a special costume so that he can be a vejigante, or masquerader, in a book that includes a Spanish-English glossary, chants, and instructions for making a vejigante mask.
For weeks the people of the Brazilian town of Olinda have been sewing costumes, painting masks, and creating giant puppets–preparing for carnaval. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, carnaval is a five-day festival of parades, dancing, and singing. But unlike Mardi Gras, Olinda’s carnaval still celebrates the traditions and folklore of the people and the shared cultures–indigenous, European, and African–that make up Brazil. As generations have done each year, the people of Olinda and their visitors give themselves over to the music, dance, and joy of carnaval.
Carnival is supposed to be a happy time, but Lily wishes it were over. Her family has been working on the gorgeous hummingbird costume for months, but it’s Lily’s big sister, Christine, who will wear it at the Children’s Carnival. Lily doesn’t want to wait till next year for her chance to jump up in costume.