FRANCES DEAN WHO LOVED TO DANCE AND DANCE

The story of Frances Dean’s artistic journey from shrinking violet to exuberant dancer is sensitively told in a way that...

Similar to Oliver, the protagonist of Sif’s eponymous debut picture book (2012), the titular character of this story, Frances Dean, feels herself to be different from others and must find a way to express her desire to dance in the light of potential disapproval from other people.

When she is alone, or in the company of only the wind and the birds, her creativity knows no bounds. As soon as there are people around, she feels inhibited and loses her impulse to dance. Her constant companions, the birds, lead her to another, younger girl, who sings beautifully in public without inhibition. Inspired by this example, Frances gains the courage to dance interactively with others––first with her cat, then with the neighbor’s dog, then with the old lady in the square. The singing girl asks Frances to teach her to dance. Finally she is dancing happily in the park, surrounded by her newfound audience. Sif’s illustrative style places whimsical, cartoonlike figures in dreamy bucolic backgrounds painted in a muted palette of ochre and olive, peopled with figures and animals in a landscape inspired by Scandinavian folk tales.

The story of Frances Dean’s artistic journey from shrinking violet to exuberant dancer is sensitively told in a way that will give courage to other children who have felt shy about expressing themselves artistically. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7306-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

WE ARE MUSIC

The history of music is a big topic, and more-nuanced explanation is needed than the format allows.

This ambitious board book aims to promote an eclectic appreciation for music of all kinds.

Music, from drumming to computer-generated sound, is introduced as a linear historical sequence with two pages devoted to each of 11 styles, including medieval European, orchestral, blues, and more. Most of the musicians are portrayed as children, many with darker skin tones and with hairstyles and garb commonly associated with each type of music. Radford works in a retro cartoon mode, varying his presentation slightly with each new musical style but including a dancing dachshund on almost every spread, presumably to enhance child appeal. Unfortunately, the book just can’t succeed in reducing such a wide range of musical styles to toddler-appropriate language. The first two spreads read: “We start with clapping, tapping, and drums. // Lutes, flutes, and words are what we become.” The accompanying illustrations show, respectively, half-naked drummers and European court figures reading, writing, and playing a flute. Both spreads feature both brown-skinned and pale-skinned figures. At first reading this seems innocent enough, but the implication that clapping and drumming are somehow less civilized or sophisticated than a European style is reinforced in Stosuy’s glossary of music terms. He describes “Prehistoric Music” as “rhythmic music [made] with rocks, sticks, bones, and…voices,” while “Renaissance Music” is defined as “multiple melodies played at the same time.”

The history of music is a big topic, and more-nuanced explanation is needed than the format allows. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0941-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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