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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, written and illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 4 and up

"At school sometimes, when no one was watching, she danced with her fingers on her desk. Or she gently tapped her toes to the beat of her teacher's voice.

But mostly, she couldn't wait to go outside and dance!"

I shared Birgitta Sif's Oliver (Candlewick, 2012) with you in a previous post. I hope that you were able to find it. It is a brilliant story about children who are introverts.

In this new book, she introduces us to Frances Dean. Frances loves to dance. In fact, she would do nothing but dance if life allowed such a thing. When we meet her, there is a new concern about that dancing; she does it best when no one is watching. When there are people around, in the park or at school:

"all she could feel were their
eyes on her...
and she forgot how to dance."

The birds love that she dances and they relish time spent watching her. So, when their friend Frances finds herself overwhelmed by self-consciousness, they come to her rescue. They convince her to follow them, and take her to another bench in the park. There, a small girl is listening to the radio and singing along. Watching her sing so happily brings inspiration. That night Frances wonders what might happen if she could share her love of dance. Morning light finds her practicing her moves and showing her avian friends. As her confidence grows, so does her willingness to share what she loves.

The charming artwork is rendered in pencil, then digitally colored in striking tones of green, red, blue and brown. It's lovely to meet Frances' many bird friends (and a loving squirrel couple, too) on the endpapers, and to see her face when she knows they are nearby. To see Frances, in turns joyous and fearful, then confident once more, inspires close looks at the many details that the artist includes to help us understand this beautiful young girl and her journey toward renewed joy.

Thank you, Birgitta Sif. You inspire each and every one of us to look at children in very personal ways, to understand who they are and to honor their differences. We, and our children, are better for having shared your splendid stories.

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