Dance with Me
written by Penny Harrison; illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
2016 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
But the years passed and the little girl grew, as little girls do,
and soon she did not have time to dance with the ballerina.
Stationed in a wooden box, a joyful ballerina dances as she looks out over a field and on to the sea which are actually a blanket and a blue rug. This first page shows one of the strengths of Dance with Me, which is getting readers to think about a character's point of view. The ballerina lives a happy life as the owner of the box, a little girl, dances alongside her. Unfortunately for the ballerina, the little girl grows up and loses interest in the ballerina and her music. Given the disconnect, the ballerina takes a chance and escapes from her box. She goes through the field and to the sea, but she can't find anyone to dance with her. Sailing across the sea in a red boat that looks suspiciously like a shoe, the ballerina comes upon a leopard that would rather eat her than dance. Frightened, she races back to the safety of her box. As the girl approaches, the ballerina dances and hopes to catch the attention of her beloved owner. Instead, the girl closes the box both figuratively and literally. After years of being packed away, the box opens. What fate awaits the tiny dancer?
Being a fan of the Toy Story movies, I know that giving human traits to nonhuman objects can produce powerful emotions. Tell me you didn't cry when Jessie the cowgirl sang "When She Loved Me" in Toy Story 2. Dance with Me pulls on those same heartstrings. I will be very curious to hear how children react to the different plot points in this story. With young children, you can give them sticky notes and ask them to draw how they feel and make a sort of plot timeline with the notes. You can also have them talk about their toys and which ones are most beloved. As mentioned before, you can also use this text to teach a lesson on point of view. What we see as a rug is a body of water to the ballerina. Dance with Me is a good book to have jete into your read aloud bin.