I’m thrilled to be joining The Book Wars as a self-proclaimed picture book expert – I’m really looking forward to sharing some of my favourite picture books with everyone, and hopefully hearing your thoughts on them as well!
As a children’s librarian, this month’s performing arts theme is right up my alley. Working with kids certainly has an element of performance to it, and children are natural born performers.
Five Finds is a feature I run on my blog where I share five books that suit a given theme. Today we’re looking at dance, dance, dance. Whether your preferred form of movement is hip hop, ballet, or something else entirely, when you feel the rhythm, you just have to dance!
What’s particularly inspiring about these picture books is the diversity of stories they tell. I was easily able to find fantastic picture books featuring dancers of colour, as well as inspiring stories of triumph over adversity, which sadly isn’t always the case with picture books.
A feisty young girl finds toe-tapping rhythms all around her urban community. The rhythm she discovers quickly spreads, and a lively, diverse cast of characters joins with her in tapping, bopping, clapping, snapping, and laughing to the joyful beat. This fantastic story celebrates the rhythm of life, and encourages readers to find and share the joy in everyday moments and experiences. I Got the Rhythm works beautifully as a vibrant, engaging read-aloud, inviting kids to join in with the finger-snapping, toe-tapping beat. Children will also delight in seeing themselves and their urban environment celebrated in this fun, lively story.
Misty Copeland triumphed over poverty and prejudice to become a soloist with the American Ballet Theater. Everything in her life story seems like something out of a work of fiction – she only started practising ballet at the advanced age of 13, yet managed to achieve a level of success and acclaim that she never could have believed possible as a young African-American girl growing up in the wrong part of town. In this elegant, poetic picture book, Misty speaks directly with a young reader, encouraging her to believe in herself and her potential. Bold, striking collage illustrations capture the fire in Misty’s spirit, and complete this vibrant, powerful story.
A young African-American girl in 1950’s Harlem dreams of a life on the stage, longing to become a ballerina. Poverty and prejudice seem destined to crush her dreams, but she is determined to emulate her hero, the pioneering African-American ballet star Janet Collins, the “first Colored prima ballerina”. While the story of the little girl is fictional, Janet Collins was a very real woman, and her success against all odds has inspired countless aspiring young dancers. This gentle, lyrical text will appeal to young ballet aficionados of all backgrounds with its inspiring story of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Emma is a little girl who dreams of being a ballerina when she grows up. Julia is a young woman who is living her dream of being a ballerina. This simple story follows the two main characters along their separate paths as they finally converge in a ballet performance and a special meet and greet after the show. The picture book is notable in that it depicts Julia as a young African-American woman and Emma as a young white girl, though this is never mentioned in the text. The story emphasises the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed as a professional dancer, showcasing the hours of practice that Julia and her friends commit to their art. Being a professional dancer is about more than just having dreams and wearing pretty dresses – it’s about hard work, commitment, endless practice and professionalism, which Julia and her friends have in spades.
This elegant picture book biography follows the life of one of the most brilliant dancers to ever grace the stage – the ethereal Anna Pavlova. Pavlova’s life is another story of triumph over incredible adversity – frail and small, she was born into grinding poverty, and her life seemed destined to be one of never-ending, back-breaking work. But Pavlova had a rare gift for dance that shone through even as a child, and that would one day take her to concert halls around the world. Anna’s story is a sad one, and the book touches delicately on her early and untimely death, but its message is ultimately one of hope. Anna Pavlova beat the odds and lived her passion to the fullest, if only for a short time, which is more than many of us will ever be able to claim.
Are there any dance-themed picture books you would recommend taking a look at? I’d love to add them to my reading list!