I Will Dance by Nancy Bo Flood

Cover image for I Will Dance

I Will Dance by Nancy Bo Flood, illustrated by Julianna Swaney (9781534430617)

A little girl with cerebral palsy makes a birthday wish that she gets a pink tutu and can dance. When Eva was born, she wasn’t expected to survive more than a short while, but she is now ten years old. She wants to dance but can’t move more than her head and her arms and fingers. Eva can’t use her legs to run and move like other children can. Then her mother discovers a new dance program for people of all ages and all abilities. Still, will they let her join in even though she is in a wheelchair? Yes! When Eva arrives there are children of all sorts of ages, sizes, and who have a variety of assistive devices they use. Soon they are not only dancing but creating a performance where they do more than pretend and imagine. They dance!

At the end of the book, the author explains that a program called Young Dance inspired this picture book. The Executive Director of the Young Dance program also shares information on the program and its opportunities for children of all abilities. This picture book is inspiring on a variety of levels, for children who may think their limitations would prevent them from dancing, certainly. Plus it also shows everyone else not to make assumptions about what is possible and whether a dream can come true. Still, it is based firmly in reality, and as the book points out takes imagination and makes it real.

Swaney’s illustrations are lovely, showing both Eva’s physical limitations and also the beauty and freedom she first sees and then discovers herself in dancing. The use of sparkling energy to show the movement and magic of dance works particularly well.

A book that is inspiring and breaks stereotypes through dance. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

a curse so dark and lonely by brigid kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (9781681195087)

Prince Rhen has been cursed along with his entire kingdom into repeating the same season over and over again until a girl falls in love with him. At the end of each season, he fails and turns into a monster who slays his own people. Now he is left with a single guardsman, Grey, who has pledged to stay at his side. Each season, Grey transports himself to Washington, D.C. and steals a girl to try to break the curse. Then one year, he steals Harper, a girl who was not his chosen one but instead one who tried to attack Grey and save the girl he was attempting to kidnap. Harper may not have been Grey’s choice, but now she is the only chance they have at breaking the curse since the sorceress who placed the curse has declared this the final season. As Harper steps into the role of princess, she refuses to conform to expectations. She is intent on making a difference to the suffering people of the kingdom even if they underestimate her due to her cerebral palsy. But will it be enough to end the curse? Will love come?

I approach every retelling of a fairy tale with trepidation. There are few that can really transform the tale into something new and fresh. Kemmerer does exactly that with her retelling of Beauty and the Beast. She creates two amazing male characters, each compelling in their own way and with their own special bond with one another too. She adds one of the nastiest sorceresses around, Lilith, who is willing to provide endless pain to Rhen, Grey and anyone else she can. Kemmerer then laces this story with the psychology of reliving the same year again and again, with immense failure, slaughter, remorse and despair. The result is a dark rather than dreamy story, filled with pain, blood, battles and strategy.

Harper is an incredible heroine. Her having cerebral palsy is interwoven into the story, not as an aside but as a part of her life experience that gives her context for helping others and seeing beyond the surface to their potential. She is honest and forthright, and yet willing to use subterfuge and lies to make a positive difference for those she cares about. She is entirely complicated and every inch a princess and heroine.

A great retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this book stands on its own merits. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Melody is eleven years old and has never said a single word.  She also has a photographic memory so she remembers being a baby, remembers every show she has ever seen on TV, remembers the commercials too, remembers songs, factoids, everything.  All those words are trapped in her head, unable to be released.  Her parents know she is bright, but how could anyone know just how smart Melody actually is with her cerebral palsy being all that they can see?  At school she is in the classroom for those with special needs where the quality of instruction varies from year to year. One year she was subjected to the alphabet over and over again along with a CD of nursery rhymes.  Pure torture!  So when Melody realizes that she needs a computer to help her talk, everyone had better be ready to hear what she has to say!

This in-depth character study is beautifully done.  Melody is a character with charisma, brilliance and a sassy attitude that is integral to her personality.  Despite being unable to speak, Melody will speak deeply to any reader who takes the time to meet her.  Draper does not sugarcoat Melody’s disability.  She does not make the people around Melody too perfect and good.  Instead everyone is human, especially Melody. 

Draper brought me to tears several times in the novel.  From spectacular moments of Melody speaking to the cruelty of other children, this book offers such highs and lows.  And through it all, living it all, we have Melody, a true heroine, an amazing person, and someone we all should get to know.

The cover is wonderful with its fish out of water theme and a direct tie to the storyline.  I love the contrast of the pale blue and bright orange, because Melody is such a flash of bright color in the novel.

This will make a brilliant read aloud for a classroom of 5th or 6th graders.  It will also be adored by single readers who will find Melody a person worth spending time with.  Appropriate for ages 9-13, this book is a real winner.

Reviewed from library copy.

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