This poetic and uplifting picture book illustrated by the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines follows a young girl born with cerebral palsy as she pursues her dream of becoming a dancer.
Like many young girls, Eva longs to dance. But unlike many would-be dancers, Eva has cerebral palsy. She doesn’t know what dance looks like for someone who uses a wheelchair.
Then Eva learns of a place that has created a class for dancers of all abilities. Her first movements in the studio are tentative, but with the encouragement of her instructor and fellow students, Eva becomes more confident. Eva knows she’s found a place where she belongs. At last her dream of dancing has come true.---from the publisher
48 pages 978-1534430617 Ages 4-8
Keywords: dreams, dance, dancing, ballet, cerebral palsy, fitting in, belonging, wheelchair, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old, diversity, diverse books
“Right foot right, left foot left
They got me on the run
Now I know what grownups do
When they go out for fun”
-- my hazy recollection of “I’d Rather Dance Than Eat,” the song to which our Saturday afternoon dance class tap-danced when I was in second grade.
Back then, I learned that moving my body to music was a lot of fun. These days it’s just two of us dancing at home. But when a pandemic’s not in the way, we are longtime participants in Lindy in the Park, a Sunday tradition in Golden Gate Park for more than a quarter-century.
I WILL DANCE is a lovely book about the act of dancing. There are a couple of reasons to share this one with pre-Ks and early elementary students. First, it’s a physical education book about moving your body in healthy, creative ways. Sometimes we dance in coordination with others. That can be magic to participate in and to watch. Sometimes we dance alone, or even just stride to the rhythm. Second, this tale of inclusivity is told from the view of a girl in a motorized wheelchair. The dance class for girls to which she ventures includes a couple of other differently abled children among the crowd.
I roll forward
onto the dance floor.
We are many dancers, one circle.
We each pass the touch.
The instructor steps
Her eyes meet mine. Her hand opens. She reaches,
dances closer, until her fingers touch mine.
Something inside me changes.
I turn to the person next to me.
I lift my finger up, then down,
swirl my fingers around.
He watches then reaches,
echoes my movement, adds his own,
passes the touch, until the circle is complete.
We are all one circle.”
The main character has watched and wondered and dreamed of dancing. She’s had moments of real frustration. This class experience is a success story for everyone involved. The girl connects and bonds with her classmates. They come to see past her disabilities to the person, as we want our children to learn to do.
This rhythmic celebration of dancing is written by an educator who has developed programs for students with disabilities. I love illustrator Julianna Swaney’s eye-catching watercolor and graphite illustrations. The girls are buoyant and remind me of Alison Lester’s work from thirty years ago. The young characters vary by color, body shape, and abilities. There’s a lot of waving rhythm to the artwork, a lot of bounding energy.
As the teacher would say, On Four. One...Two...
Recommended by Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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