Written by Valerie Bolling
Illustrated by Maine Diaz
Boyds Mill Press 1/02/2020
32 Pages Age 3—7
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Dance Styles, Movement, Inclusivity, Diversity
This rhythmic showcase of dances from all over the world features children of diverse backgrounds and abilities tapping, spinning, and bouncing away!
Tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page! (from publisher)
“Tappity-tap. Fingers snap. Turn, twirl. Twist, Whirl.”
Why I like Let’s Dance
Children like to dance. Put on some music, most any style, and soon children’s feet and hands are moving, bodies are gliding and twirling, and kids are having a joyous time. This is what Let’s Dance is about, kids moving to music, dancing different styles. There is a diverse cast of characters not seen often enough in picture books. From a Southern Spanish flamenco to classical ballet, young dancers showcase many styles of dance. Let’s Dance is on a world-wide tour.
The writing is composed of a sparse 60 words, most all of which are rhyming onomatopoeia; a daring choice for a debut author. Valerie Bolling may be new to children’s books, but she is far from new to working with children, mostly as a teacher (25 years). Here are a few examples of her writing, (in random order):
Bust a Move
“Glide and Slide
“Side to Side”
How many of you reading this are still sitting down? At the very least, I bet your feet are a-tapping and you’re remembering a favorite song and dance.
Each word declares movement, while the illustrations express those words in dance, with wonderfully creative characters bopping about in costumes reflective of the dance and/or culture related to it. I believe artist Maine Diaz has delivered the most inclusive, racially, and ethnically diverse group of child-characters in children’s picture books (probably kidlit in general). There is even a young boy disco dancing from his wheelchair and a blind boy dancing the flamingo; his walking cane hanging from his wrist as he claps.
There will be some very happy children when they open Let’s Dance and see someone who looks like they look or deals with a handicap the same as they do.
To be as inclusive as possible, the final dancers really know how to hoof it. Instead of being counted, these white, fluffy sheep dance in the children’s dreams. If you read these reviews often, you know I love details. There are lovely details on each spread to keep youngsters busy. The end-pages are filled with dance shoes, hats, and all manner of dancing gear these young dancers carried or wore in Let’s Dance. I love end-pages that are creatively designed.
Many new authors have trouble cutting words from their 2000 plus-word picture book. Ask them to keep the text to 60 action words and the scene will not be suitable for young eyes. It is not an easy task to fill thirty-two pages with the right words.
It can be difficult to review a sparsely-worded book. When illustrations are involved, they tend to get the most coverage. I do not want to slight Ms. Bolling’s efforts in the least. Her words will be repeated by every youngster lucky enough to get a copy of Let’s Dance. Those same kids will be reciting the words as they dance them out. What is a better review than children remembering the words, acting out the characters’ scenes (dances), and carrying the book around, some right into bed with them? Certainly not my review.
Let’s Dance is a superb debut.
Favorite Sentence /Scene
I don’t have a favorite dance, but I do have favorite couplets. The three couplets in center stage above are there because those are my favorites. I nearly bust-a-gut when I read “Groovity-Groove / Bust a Move.” Children will love Ms. Bolling’s 60 words.
Right after the story of dancers “bust(ing)-a-move” in ten very different dances from around the globe, Ms. Bolling offers a short, clipped description of each dance. While nice, it would serve its purpose had those descriptions been more substantial. The layout is fun and energetic with the inclusion of a dancer in motion above each dance.
Available at Amazon.
LET’S DANCE. Text Copyright © 2020 by Valerie Bolling. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Maine Diaz. Published by Boyds Mill Press/Boyds Mills & Kane, New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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