Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Spring Book Corner

Spring Book Corner
Young Reader’s Edition                       

Whenever I feature a book corner, the titles usually fall into a few different categories: dance biographies, academic performance study texts or anthologies. For Spring 2019, I’m changing things up a bit, as there are some fantastic new dance-themed children’s books on shelves now.

On Tiptoes – De Puntitas
By C.V. Monterrubio
Illustrated by Gabriela García
Published by BookBank USA

On Tiptoes – De Puntitas is sure to be a popular selection among budding Bay Area balletomanes as it is inspired by the life of San Francisco Ballet Principal dancer Sasha De Sola. With a narrative thread that speaks to the connection between dreams and hard work, the reality of challenges and the perseverance to overcome them, On Tiptoes – De Puntitas casts an ideal narrative arc for any new reader.

A young Sasha is introduced in the book’s first pages, as is her discovery of and dedication to ballet. After countless hours of practice at esteemed schools, her quest for the professional stage finally finds her landing at SFB, only to be sidelined with a very serious injury. Even though this obstacle seems insurmountable, the story ends in triumph thanks to a combination of tenacity, drive and patience.

While On Tiptoes – De Puntitas has a winning narrative in its own right, one of its greatest accomplishment is its commitment to duality. It’s a bilingual title, with both English and Spanish appearing on every page. And one of its hidden features is that it is actually two related stories that meet in the middle. If you start from the front of the book, you learn about Sasha’s journey, but if you flip the hardcover over and begin on the other side, you meet a young man, whose is so taken and motivated by Sasha’s talent and artistry that it fuels his own pursuit of classical ballet. With fantastic illustrations, it’ll make a great addition to your child’s library.

It’s Just a Bunnypalooza
By Brenda Faatz and Peter Trimarco
Illustrated by Peter Trimarco
Published by Notable Kids Publishing

Another great title for spring is It’s Just a Bunnypalooza, the third adventure in the It’s Just So… books, which features a precocious and entertaining protagonist, Lizzy. A story like this one, that combines dance and bunnies, might make a perfect addition to an Easter basket in a few weeks.

In It’s Just a Bunnypalooza, we find Lizzy preparing for her school’s upcoming talent show, and who does she turn to for guidance? Her host of animal friends (the sweet bond between her character and the animals is indeed a narrative highlight). Eventually, with the help of a litter of bunnies, she finds her choreographic stride, only to be picked on and dismissed by her classmates. But the bunnies will not surrender, they band together to remind Lizzy how much she loves dance and movement.

It’s Just a Bunnypalooza is clearly a charming tale where friendship, learning and artistic practice intersect. But where the book really shines (at least from a movement vocabulary perspective) is in its commitment to diversity of genre and style. Yes, the bunnies delve into ballet and tap, but they also take a foray into break dancing, social dances, ballroom and world dance forms. And at the end of the book, there is a two-page glossary of dance terms to explore. This epilogue not only defines the different dances, but talks about where they originate. It’s Just a Bunnypalooza is a great way for kids to discover more about dance as well as witness the enduring connection we have with animals.

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