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Bookshelf: Let's Dance

Reads to celebrate the joy of movement

     I love seeing how happy and free little kids are when they’re dancing to music. Dance speaks to young children in so many ways. Put on some music, hum a tune and encourage them to move their bodies. Some will sway; others will bounce and spin; others will zoom about. So many little kids love performing for adults and other kids, and being center stage. Share these favorite books with your little dancers and enjoy the celebrations they inspire.

Bea at Ballet, by Rachel Isadora (Penguin, 32 pp., $12.99, ages 2–5)
     Preschoolers enchanted with ballet will love this simple introduction to ballet. Rachel Isadora is a former dancer whose love for ballet shines through at each step. Young Bea goes to dance class with six other preschoolers, four girls and two boys. After getting dressed in her leotard and ballet slippers, Bea peeks into the studio, excited and a little nervous, too. The class starts by sitting in a circle, clapping to the music — something preschoolers do all the time. Different elements of ballet, from the five basic positions to the equipment, are introduced clearly and simply. Isadora’s simple, understated illustration style keeps the focus on the children. Look for her other lovely books about ballet at the library.

Tallulah’s Solo, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Clarion Books, 32 pp., $16.99, ages 3–7)
     Tallulah loves ballet and dreams of having her moment in the spotlight. Now that she’s taking ballet classes, she knows that she is going to be a beautiful ballet dancer, certain that she will get the lead in the upcoming recital. Tallulah is happy that her younger brother Beckett is taking ballet classes, too, but she is not patient with his zooming and jumping around. When Beckett is chosen for a big role in the recital, Tallulah is shocked and discouraged. Little children will be drawn to Boiger’s soft watercolor illustrations, but they will also appreciate her attention to the character’s emotions and movement. The resolution is touching and realistic, as Tallulah finally reaches out to help the crying, nervous Beckett. Singer creates a story that celebrates the sparkly sweetness of ballet and resonates at a deeper level of sibling relationships.

Lola’s Fandango, by Anna Witte, illustrated by Micha Archer, CD narrated by The Amador Family (Barefoot Books, 32 pp., $9.99, ages 5–8)
     Like many younger sisters, Lola is jealous of her older sister Clementina. Lola yearns to have something special that she can do — something that makes her stand out. When she learns that her mother used to dance the flamenco with special polka-dot high heels, she pleads with her Papi to teach her. Papi tells her that it takes duende — spirit or attitude — to learn the flamenco. “ ‘But I have that!’ Lola shouts and throws her arms in the air and makes a serious face.” Children will relate to Lola’s search for her own special talent and for her chance to shine for her family. Witte conveys the joy and rhythm of the flamenco, from the “Toca toca TICA!” of Lola’s heels to the “Snap! Snap!” of her fingers beating out the rhythm. And Archer’s collage-style artwork is full of bright colors, fabrics and patterns that match the liveliness of the text perfectly. I love sharing this celebration of Spanish dance.

Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle, $5.99, 136 pp., ages 5–9).
     Don’t we all know kids who have begged, and I mean begged, for something? A puppy? A new toy? A glittering pair of shoes? Ivy and Bean, stars of the wildly popular chapter book series by Berkeley author Annie Barrows, are sure that ballet class is the perfect activity for them. They have seen amazing pictures of ballet dancers. Giselle kicks her pointed toe so fiercely toward the duke that she’s surely going to snap his head off! What kid wouldn’t want to do that?! So Ivy and Bean beg and beg and beg, with wobbly lower lips, to take ballet class. They promise that it will be different than ice skating or softball. And the promise: no quitting. And no complaining. But that’s before they know how ballet classes really are. Bean is completely bored, and Ivy keeps falling over. When the two are given the roles of squids in the performance of Wedding Beneath the Sea, they decide that they have no choice but to run away. The Ivy and Bean series is so much fun to read aloud to children who are just at the age where they are ready to listen to chapter books. Come see how these friends take to ballet class.

Mary Ann Scheuer is the librarian at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley. Find more books to share with your children at her blog, Great Kid Books (http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com).

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