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)