Dance With Me, by Penny Harrison & Gwynneth Jones

Each day a girl appeared before her and the ballerina twirled and whirled and swayed and swirled and sang to the little girl, ‘Come, dance with me.’
And the little girl would laugh and clap her hands and dance with the ballerina.

A music box ballerina likes nothing more than to dance to the music with the little girl who owns the music box. But the girls grows up, and develops other interests, and one day she stops dancing. The ballerina tries to find someone – or something – else to dance with her, but without luck. For years she is silent, shut in her box with nobody to dance with. Then, a little girl very similar to the one from years before, discovers her, and the ballerina dances one more.

Dance with Me is a delightful, slightly sad, story of growing up, and the toys that are left behind. Happily, in this story, the dancer survives until the next generation of owner falls in love with her. The illustrations, by Gwynneth Jones, use watercolour and outlines with soft pastel colours for the ballerina and her world, and bolder colours when she ventures out into the world looking for a dance partner.
Likely to appeal to young dancers, especially those with a fondness for music boxes.

Dance with Me, by Penny Harrison & Gwynneth Jones
EK Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925335231

The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard

9781743315897.jpgi am the girl many loves. the girl who writes our story in the book of flying. i am alice.
they sewed me up when I was twelve. mended my broken head with fishbone stitches. tucked my frayed edges in. tucked everything in. things meant to be and things not. do it quick. stem the flow. stop life leaking out of alice. that’s all they wanted. so gram said.

Alice Nightingale is fifteen and longs to be all that fifteen year old can be. But when she was twelve something terrible happened and now when she speaks people can’t understand her – won’t understand her. So she writes instead, poems which she scatters around town – and on the wind.

Manny James, who is alone as Alice, runs at night, trying to escape the memories of his past as he tries to make a new life in Australia. He finds a poem, treasures it, and wonders if it came from the girl he sees sitting on the roof of the house near the river.

The Stars at Oktober Bend is the beautiful, haunting story of two wounded teens who together strive to make sense of themselves and of the world around them. Alice must overcome the troubling events of her past, and the way her family has splintered, while Manny must adapt to life in a new country, the loss of his family and the terrible effects of war. Author Glenda Millard manages to give both characters authentic, wonderful voices.

Poetic, shocking and movingly perfect.

The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781743315897

Pirouette by Robyn Bavati

Simone Stark flung open the door to the nearest cubicle and dropped to her knees, head poised over the toilet bowl. Afraid she’d throw up again, she tried to focus on her breathing – in for two counts, out for four – but it was hard to get an even rhythm when her whole body was trembling.

The bathroom door crashed open and Simone held her breath.

‘Simone! Are you in here?’ That was Jess, Simone’s best friend.

Simone heaved herself up and opened the toilet door.

Jess was already in costume and fully made up. ‘You missed your call,’ she said. ‘Mr Dixon is fuming. Hey, are you okay?’

Simone Stark flung open the door to the nearest cubicle and dropped to her knees, head poised over the toilet bowl. Afraid she’d throw up again, she tried to focus on her breathing – in for two counts, out for four – but it was hard to get an even rhythm when her whole body was trembling.

The bathroom door crashed open and Simone held her breath.

‘Simone! Are you in here?’ That was Jess, Simone’s best friend.

Simone heaved herself up and opened the toilet door.

Jess was already in costume and fully made up. ‘You missed your call,’ she said. ‘Mr Dixon is fuming. Hey, are you okay?’

Simone attends an elite dance school full time and has come to hate it. Hannah dances three times a week and dreams of dancing full time. When Simone and Hannah meet up at Candance, a summer dance school, they realise they are twins. They’ve both always know they were adopted, but neither had realised they had a twin sister. They have an instant bond, and almost immediately realise that they may have found a way to live the lives they dream of. They decide to swap lives. Hannah will be able to live her dreams of dancing full time, Simone can explore aspects of life other than dance. Of course life is never that simple and the girls discover just how complex life can be when you are pretending to be other than you are.

Dance classes are full of dancers who dream of a career doing what they love. And there are many people who sometimes dream of living someone else’s life. In ‘Pirouette’ twin girls, separated soon after birth, have the chance to experience the life of the other, the life that looks more perfect than their own. But having lived only one life, there are differences they could never have imagined. Cue close shaves and compounding misunderstandings. Throughout literature, twins have swapped lives, with funny and profound consequences. Add dance and you have the perfect adventure for performance-mad dancers. There are themes of honesty, family, nature vs nurture, ambition. Dancers will love the dance terms and classes, early secondary readers will love the switch and hold their breath as their ‘perfect solution’ slowly disintegrates. Recommended for upper-primary and early-secondary readers.

Pirouette

Pirouette, Robyn Bavati Penguin Books 2014 ISBN: 9780143569374

Silhouette, by Thalia Kalipsakis

There’s silence as Natasha scans the room and stops on me. ‘You,’ she says, pointing. ‘Show us. from the start.’
The command hits me like a shot of adrenaline. Moss glances at me. It’s just a moment But it pulls me. I want him to look at me again.
Heart racing. I step forwards and begin to dance. This is my moment, my chance to express.

All Scarlett wants is to dance, and she’ll do whatever it takes to earn a place at the National Ballet Company. But first she has to finish her final year at the Academy of Performing Arts. When she decides to audition for a spot as a dancer on a Moss Young video clip,s he doesn’t plan on letting it distract her from her studies. But moss is charismatic, and he is interested  in Scarlett. It can’t hurt to spend some time with him.

Silhouette is a a young adult novel set against the background of a dance academy but isn’t just a tale of a dancer following her dream. Scarlett is a complex character with a past which haunts her, and faces problems which seem universal to teens – peer pressure, the need to balance responsibility with having fun, relationships, friendships, and family dynamics. Though strong and determined she is also at times impetuous, making mistakes and showing flaws.

A gritty tale of growing up, making mistakes and moving on.

Silhouette

Silhouette, by Thalia Kalkipsakis
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2012
ISBN 9781921759659

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dancing in the Dark, by Robyn Bavati

Two more steps and –
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ says my father.
I open my mouth to speak but –
‘I asked you a question,’ says my father.
I take another step towards the door.
‘Stay where you are.’ His voice is a command. ‘If you leave now, if you set foot outside that door, you are not to come back. Do you understand, Yehudit? You are not to come back.’

Ditty Cohen is not supposed to be watching TV, but when she does, she sees a broadcast of a classical ballet and is instantly hooked. She must learn ballet herself. But when she asks her parents she is told that ballet is out of the question – it is immodest, it will not make her a better person, and it is not something a good Jewish girl can do.

For the first time in her life Ditty finds herself questioning her parents’ directives. She sneaks off to take a free lesson, and soon she is dancing every day. Her passion is equalled by her talent, and she finds herself unable to give it up. Soon, Ditty finds that she is not just covering up her secret dancing, but also her doubts about her whole life as a Haredi Jew.

Dancing in the Dark is an absorbing tale of one teenager’s struggle with family expectations, her faith, and the dilemmas which choosing to defy her parents’ force her to confront. For most Australian teens, Ditty’s life and faith will be unfamiliar, making the story doubly interesting. But, on another level, all teens will find the dilemmas of self versus family, and of meeting societal expectations, familiar.

Ditty is an honest and open narrator, and her story is well crafted, and will intrigue teen readers.

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark, by Robyn Bavati
Penguin, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

If the Shoe Fits, by Krista Bell

Cassie loves dancing. She goes to dance classes three times a week. The problem is, she doesn’t like dancing in front of people – in fact the thought of people watching her terrifies her. She wishes she could be like Jake, the most confident boy in the dance class.

When the dance school has an open day, Cassie tries desperately to stay home. How can she overcome her fear of performing? But when she arrives at the school, she discovers she’s not the only one who is worried – Jake has fears of his own. Together the pair conquer their fears and learn that they make a wonderful team.

If the Shoe Fits is a cute little read with a big message about self-confidence, expectations and friendship. Part of Lothian’s Start Ups series aimed at readers new to chapter books (junior novels), there is a high ratio of illustration to text and bite-sized chapters which make the book accessible to readers as young as six or seven.

Lovely.

If the Shoe Fits, by Krista Bell
Lothian, 2006