Dance Party

Whether it’s a phys­i­cal expres­sion of strength and rhythm, a fond­ness for groov­ing to life’s beats, or a ded­i­ca­tion to train­ing and per­for­mance, dance has many per­son­al­i­ties and appeals to a myr­i­ad of peo­ple. Here are some excep­tion­al books for very young read­ers through teens (and adults, too).

I Will Dance

writ­ten by Nan­cy Bo Flood
illus­trat­ed by Julian­na Swaney
Atheneum, 2020

A young girl with a very large gui­tar invites oth­ers as her poem unfolds in a sequence of scenes show­ing the young peo­ple help­ing oth­ers, car­ing for the Earth, and cel­e­brat­ing their diversity.

Foot­work:
The Sto­ry of Fred and Adele Astaire

writ­ten by Rox­ane Orgill
illus­trat­ed by Stephane Jorisch
Can­dlewick Press, 2013

As chil­dren, Fred and Adele Astaire were suc­cess­ful on Broad­way. This charm­ing biog­ra­phy fol­lows the young chil­dren from their start through their Amer­i­can tour with the waltz and tango.

Jazz Baby

by Leo and Diane Dil­lon
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2007

A fab­u­lous read-aloud, per­fect for danc­ing and mov­ing with a beat. Hip-hop and Bebop make a joy­ful noise!

Jin­gle Dancer

writ­ten by Cyn­thia Leitich Smith
illus­trat­ed by Cor­nelius Van Wright
and Ying-Hwa Hu
Heart­drum, 2000

Jen­na does­n’t have enough tin jin­gles to give her pow­wow dress the right sound. Deter­mined, she vis­its her fam­i­ly and neigh­bors, bor­row­ing the need­ed orna­ments that will make her dress sing. An impor­tant sto­ry about a con­tem­po­rary Native Amer­i­can girl.

Bun­heads

writ­ten by Misty Copeland
illus­trat­ed by Setor Fiadzig­bey
G.P. Put­nam’s Sons, 2020

Nuanced, atten­tive illus­tra­tions set this pic­ture book apart as Misty Copeland, a sig­nif­i­cant bal­let dancer, relates the sto­ry of “Cop­pelia,” show­ing how the main char­ac­ters coöper­ate to tell the sto­ry. Misty Copeland shares how she fell in love with dance.

Tallchief: Amer­i­ca’s Pri­ma Ballerina

writ­ten by Maria Tallchief
and Rose­mary Wells
illus­trat­ed by Gary Kel­ley
Viking, 1999

Bet­ty Marie Tallchief grew up on Okla­homa’s Osage reser­va­tion, where her par­ents were among the wealth­i­est peo­ple on earth because of the oil field on their land. This is the sto­ry of Mari­a’s child­hood, train­ing to be a bal­le­ri­na, sat­is­fy­ing her love for music and dance, before achiev­ing inter­na­tion­al acclaim.

Danc­ing in the Wings

writ­ten by Deb­bie Allen
illus­trat­ed by Kadir Nel­son
Dial Books, 2000

A young girl loves bal­let but her feet are too big and her legs are too long. Sassy is won­der­ful­ly con­fi­dent and she has sup­port from her uncle and the fes­ti­val direc­tor. She is going to dance in spite of every­one who says she can’t.

The Lit­tle Dancer: A Chil­dren’s Book Inspired by Edgar Degas

writ­ten by Géral­dine Elschn­er
illus­trat­ed by Olivi­er Desvaux
Pres­tel Junior, 2020

Based on Degas bal­le­ri­na paint­ings and his Lit­tle Dancer Aged Four­teen sculp­ture, this book focus­es on Jeanne, whose life is wrapped up in class­es, rehearsals, and per­for­mance. She becomes the mod­el for Mr. D, who is work­ing on a sculp­ture. We spend time with Jeanne in 19th-cen­tu­ry Paris and learn a good deal about Degas in the back matter.

Find­ing My Dance

writ­ten by Ria Thun­der­cloud
illus­trat­ed by Kalila J. Fuller
Pen­guin Work­shop, 2022

From danc­ing in her jin­gle dress at a pow­wow when she was four years old to being clas­si­cal­ly trained in dance, Ria Thun­der­cloud has been a pro­fes­sion­al dancer for many years. From the Ho-Chunk Nation and the San­dia Pueblo, she express­es her indige­nous roots in per­for­mances around the world.

Tal­lu­lah’s Tap Shoes

writ­ten by Mar­i­lyn Singer
illus­trat­ed by Alexan­dra Boiger
Clar­i­on Books, 2015

One of six books about Tal­lu­lah and danc­ing, dance camp is loom­ing but Tal­lu­lah knows she’ll have to learn tap and she’s not excit­ed about it. What will put some sparkle in her tapping?

T is for Tutu: a Bal­let Alphabet

writ­ten by Sonia Rodriguez
and Kurt Brown­ing
illus­trat­ed by Wil­son Ong
Sleep­ing Bear Press, 2011

Wife and hus­band, Rodriguez, a Prin­ci­pal Dancer with The Nation­al Bal­let of Cana­da, and Brown­ing, four-time world cham­pi­on fig­ure skater, share the myr­i­ad aspects of bal­let with an alpha­bet of explanations.

Rap a Tap Tap

by Leo & Diane Dil­lon
Blue Sky Press, 2002

This book tells the sto­ry of African Amer­i­can tap dancer Bill “Bojan­gles” Robin­son, with illus­tra­tions that show the rhythm and grace of his move­ment. A delight­ful read-aloud with fas­ci­nat­ing visuals.

Song and Dance Man

writ­ten by Karen Ack­er­man
illus­trat­ed by Stephen Gam­mell
Knopf, 1998

A Grand­pa, once famous for his vaude­ville act, now dances for his grand­chil­dren in his attic. An enchant­i­ng book, it looks at being old­er, mem­o­ries, being artis­tic, and the diver­si­ty of experieces. Calde­cott Medal.

The Cam­bo­di­an Dancer:
Sophany’s Gift of Hope

writ­ten by Daryn Reichert­er
illus­trat­ed by Christy Hale
Tut­tle, 2018

The sto­ry of Cam­bo­di­a’s dias­po­ra, its refugees, and a young girl’s resilient focus on dance help Sophany Bay heal and con­nect with oth­ers, high­light­ing Cam­bo­di­an cul­ture. The sto­ry is told in Khmer on the endpapers.

I Got the Rhythm

writ­ten by Con­nie Schofield-Mor­ri­son
illus­trat­ed by Frank Mor­ri­son
Blooms­bury, 2014

An incred­i­bly rhyth­mic book with vibrant illus­tra­tions, this is an irre­sistible book for tak­ing notice of the beats around us. The young girl notices a drum­mer in the park, kids clap­ping on the play­ground, but­ter­fly wings, and she dances to it all. Joyful!

Feel the Beat

writ­ten by Mar­i­lyn Singer
illus­trat­ed by Kristi Valiant
Rocky Pond Books, 2017

Poet­ry cele­brt­ing many kinds of dance. Each poem is just right for a child to read out loud, reflect­ing many atti­tudes about danc­ing, rang­ing from sam­ba to con­ga to hora to bhangra. Glob­al­ly diverse, this is a delight.

A Dance Like Starlight:
One Bal­leri­na’s Dream

writ­ten by Kristy Dempsey
illus­trat­ed by Floyd Coop­er
Philomel, 2014

In 1950s Harlem, a girl’s dreams of becom­ing a bal­le­ri­na seemed improb­a­ble. But this true sto­ry of the first African-Amer­i­can pri­ma bal­le­ri­na, Janet Collins, shows how dreams come true when she per­forms at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera.

Ready for the Spotlight

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jaime Kim
Can­dlewick Press, 2022

Young Tessie wants to dance but her old­er sis­ter Maya gets all the atten­tion. It’s a fun­ny books with a gen­tly seri­ous under­tone, encour­ag­ing Tessie to be free in her style of dance.

Boys Dance!

writ­ten by John Robert All­man
illus­trat­ed by Luciano Lozano
Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre
Dou­ble­day, 2020

Boys Dance! by John Robert Atll­man, illus by Luciano Lozano, Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre, Dou­ble­day, 2020. A book that hap­pi­ly shares the life of boys who love bal­let, offer­ing pos­i­tive rein­force­ment, show­ing the intel­li­gence, skill, hard phys­i­cal work, and strength it takes to be a dancer.

Bal­let Shoes

writ­ten by Noël Streat­field
Dent, 1936

The old­est book on this list and a gen­er­a­tional favorite, it is the sto­ry of three adopt­ed sis­ters dur­ing the depres­sion in Lon­don. Pauline loves act­ing, Posy is a tal­ent­ed dancer, and Petro­va would like to fly air­craft. They live in a board­ing house with a com­mu­ni­ty of fas­ci­nat­ing board­ers. Carnegie Medal winner.

Tiny Dancer

writ­ten by Siena Cher­son Siegel
illus­trat­ed by Mark Siegel
Atheneum, 2020

A fol­low-up graph­ic nov­el to the wife and hus­band team’s To Dance (which won a Sib­ert Hon­or), this book is the sto­ry of Siena, study­ing at the School of Amer­i­can Bal­let, who hopes to become a mem­ber of Bal­anchine’s New York City Bal­let com­pa­ny. As she grows, she ques­tions whether the hard work and injury are worth it. And if she does­n’t dance, what then?

Life in Motion: an Unlike­ly Ballerina

Young Read­ers Edi­tion
writ­ten
by Mistly Copeland
Aladdin, 2016

An auto­bi­og­ra­phy of the African Amer­i­can bal­le­ri­na who dances pro­fes­sion­al­ly with the Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre. She shares her tri­umphs, her chal­lenges, her oppor­tu­ni­ties, and her achieve­ments in a field where some peo­ple “sim­ply don’t believe brown girls have a place in clas­si­cal bal­let.” Mid­dle grade and up.

A Time to Dance

writ­ten by Pad­ma Venka­tra­man
Nan­cy Paulsen Books, 2015

A stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful book. Veda is des­tined for dance great­ness in her home in con­tem­po­rary India. When an acci­dent neces­si­tates hav­ing her leg ampu­tat­ed below the knee, life could be over, but she’s deter­mined to re-learn to dance with guid­ance from a young man who finds dance to be spir­i­tu­al. Mid­dle grade and older.

No Bal­let Shoes in Syria

writ­ten by Cather­ine Bru­ton
NOSY, 2019

A Syr­i­an fam­i­ly awaits asy­lum in Great Britain, and they near­ly drown dur­ing the night­time cross­ing from Turkey to Greece. Aya used to dance bal­let in Alep­po before their home was bombed. In Eng­land, she is taught by a bal­le­ri­na who expe­ri­enced flee­ing from Czecho­slo­va­kia dur­ing Hitler’s inva­sion. It’s a won­der­ful­ly told sto­ry for mid­dle graders and up.

Reeni’s Turn

writ­ten by Car­ol Covin Grannick
Regal House/Fitzroy, 2020

This mid­dle grade sto­ry not only cap­tures the joy of dance, but is an anti-diet mid­dle grade sto­ry for young mid­dle graders, with threads of body neu­tral­i­ty and the dis­cov­ery of where courage comes from as a shy and intro­vert­ed young dancer — who nev­er­the­less wants to be a star — uses inter­nal strengths of per­sis­tence, resilience, and brav­ery she did­n’t think she had to become the girl she dreams of being.

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Carol Coven Grannick
Carol Coven Grannick
1 month ago

Would very much appre­ci­ate you con­sid­er­ing the inclu­sion on this list of my MG nov­el in verse, REENI’S TURN, which came out from then-small tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­er, Regal House/Fitzroy Books in Sep­tem­ber 2020. The mid­dle grade sto­ry not only cap­tures the joy of dance, but is the first clear­ly anti-diet mid­dle grade sto­ry for young mid­dle graders, with threads of body neu­tral­i­ty and the dis­cov­ery of where courage comes from as a shy and intro­vert­ed young dancer who nev­er­the­less wants to be a star uses inter­nal strengths of per­sis­tence, resilience, and brav­ery she did­n’t think she had to become the girl she dreams… Read more »