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I WILL DANCE by Nancy Bo Flood Kirkus Star


by Nancy Bo Flood ; illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Pub Date: May 26th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5344-3061-7
Publisher: Atheneum

A girl who uses a motorized wheelchair longs to dance.

The 10-year-old narrator can’t blow out the candles on her birthday cake, but she has one wish: to dance. But how can she “swirl, leap, twirl” when she can move only her head, arms, and fingers? Pretending isn’t enough. At breakfast one morning (a spill-proof cup at the child’s place adds cozy realism), one of her moms reads that the real-life company Young Dance is auditioning dancers of “all abilities, all ages.” Though apprehensive, she needs to try. At the instructor’s balletic welcome, she “swirl[s]” her fingers, joining a multiracial circle of dancers. Some dance unaided; some use “canes and crutches, / walkers and wheels.” One wears a prosthesis. Their dancing is emphatically “not pretend”—neither imaginary nor relegated to a form of therapy. Eva’s narration brims with elation as together they “create space, / create shape, / create dance,” culminating in a triumphant performance. The text itself dances across the page, lines tiptoeing phrase by phrase and echoing the shapes of dancers’ movements. Swaney’s simply drawn dancers are rosy-cheeked and cheerful; magic shimmers from their fingers, proudly joining them “[a]s one, / as us.” An author’s note explains that Eva is based on a real dancer; a note from Young Dance’s executive director describes the company. Eva presents as a child of color and wears glasses; her moms present white.

A gorgeous, immersive celebration of dancing and the grace within all bodies.

(Picture book. 6-10)