Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Favorite Collaboration Is Back!

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
I can't believe it's been two years since Maria Hanley from Maria's Movers and I took a break from "Read It. Move It. Share It." But we're back! We probably won't be posting every month but hope to collaborate at least a few more times this year. It feels so good to be back! To remind you about our collaboration, I choose picture books for Maria to use in her creative movement classes in New York City, and then we both share our experiences with the books. This month's book is Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site!


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was published a few years back by debut author Sherri Duskey Rinker and seasoned illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. It quickly rocketed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and for good reason. It's clever, adorable in its words and pictures, and appealing both to children who love trucks and to parents -- and dance teachers! -- who might be anxious to settle their little ones down after a long day at school or play.

The book starts out showing a variety of different trucks working hard until the sun begins to set. It then quickly focuses in on each type of truck and what it has to do to finish its work for the day and get ready for bed. It's written in rhyme, with each truck getting a short introduction, a stanza about what kind of work the truck does, and a stanza to say goodnight.

The first truck in the book, the crane truck, works "hard to help his team" by raising "one last beam." He also reaches, stretches, lifts high, and swings his beam. Only then can he get ready for bed...

He slowly folds his boom back in, 
And then with one last sleepy grin, 
He tucks himself in nice and tight (sigh!),
Then cuddles up and says goodnight.

Shh...goodnight, Crane Truck, goodnight.

This pattern is repeated for a cement mixer, a dump truck, a bulldozer, and an excavator. And as you might imagine, there are fabulous movement words everywhere in the book! There's spinning, churning, lifting, carrying, spilling, and so much more.

As the book comes to a close, the trucks are together again...although they are all sleeping this time. One of my favorite stanzas happens as the book winds down. I love the messages that it sends to young children, who are probably identifying strongly with the trucks by the end of the book. Work hard. Be proud of your work. And make sure your work is fun! Great lessons to carry into adulthood as well...

These big, big trucks, so tough and loud,
They work so hard, so rough, so proud.
Tomorrow is another day, 
Another chance to work and play.

I can't finish this post without also mentioning the brilliant illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld that really bring this book to life. He personifies the trucks so well, giving them great facial expressions whether they are working, playing, feeling sleepy, or snuggling into bed. So sweet.

I can't wait to find out how Maria used the book in her classes. Let's go see here.

You can also click here to read an interview with author Sherri Duskey Rinker and learn more about her inspiring road to publication. And if you like what you've heard and seen so far, check out the second picture book by the amazing team of Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld -- Steam Train, Dream Train!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

Wishing you and your loved ones all the best in the new year. I have a feeling it's going to be a good one. Happy reading and dancing!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Bear Can Dance -- and Why You Should, Too!


I was browsing through posts on Facebook this morning and read this wonderful quote by a dancer from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater...

I wish more people knew what it felt like to actually dance. I'm not referring to the difficulty of learning a technique or a combination. I mean the part that comes after everything clicks. When your most focused mind, your most moldable body, and your truest spirit all intertwine at their highest level. That point will look different for everyone, of course, but I wish everyone could attempt to reach it at least once. It can literally feel like flying.  -- Ailey dancer Fana Tesfagiorgis to the NYC Dance Project

I let this quote seep into my soul, "liked" it, and went on with my day. Little did I know it would creep back into my head later in the day when I was reading the new picture book Bear Can Dance! by Suzanne Bloom.

Bear Can Dance! is the seventh in a series of books by Bloom about Bear and his friend Goose. In this book, Bear wishes he could fly! Another character, Fox, comes up with a few clever ideas to help Bear, but none of them work very well. Goose isn't much help, either, insisting that Bear cannot fly. Or can he?

Bear can dance?
It's like flying, but with your feet on the ground. Mostly. 
Ohhhh. Bear can dance!

The only reason Bear wanted to fly was because he wanted to "swoop and glide and feel the wind" in his fur. Flying can do that, but so can dancing! After reading the book, I frantically searched Facebook until I found the quote from Fana Tesfagiorgis again, only realizing then how truly magical it was for today.

I love it when fate steps in to bring people, objects, ideas together. In this case it brought together a beautiful quote from Fana Tesfagiorgis, a beautiful book by Suzanne Bloom, and me!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Nutcracker Season Is Here!

It's only September, but ballet schools across the country are already holding auditions for the holiday favorite The Nutcracker. I finally convinced my 8-year-old and 10-year-old daughters to try out for a local production this year. Luckily, as with many recreational ballet schools, this one tries to cast everyone who auditions. The girls auditioned last Saturday, and we have just a few days left before we find out their parts!

While we're waiting, I thought I would do a little research to see what Nutcracker-themed picture books have just been published or will be coming out soon. As I expected, I found quite a few! Here are the four I'm most looking forward to reading...

Written in verse by Kristyn Crow with illustrations by Molly Idle, Zombelina Dances The Nutcracker is a follow-up to Zombelina, which introduced readers to a young Zombie who loves to dance. In the new book, Zombelina and her friend Lizzie need to figure out how to save The Nutcracker production they're supposed to dance in at the local opera house.

Rachel Isadora's Bea in The Nutcracker is another sequel -- to Bea at Ballet. The first book was a concept book, introducing young children to the components of a ballet class. Bea in The Nutcracker breaks down the components of a classical ballet, using The Nutcracker as an example.

I don't know too much about this version of The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner and Peter Malone, except that it comes with a CD of the Tchaikovsky score. But the cover really draws me in, and I'd love to see more of the illustrations!

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition also piqued my interested. Written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Cathy Gendron, this book tells the story of how The Nutcracker, which is a Russian ballet, became such a special tradition in the United States.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the blog Dance Advantage about some of my favorite Nutcracker books at that time. You can read the post here, in case you are looking for more dance books this holiday season.

Do you have a favorite Nutcracker picture book? Or do any of the new ones look interesting to you? I'd love to hear!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Booking Across the USA: Maryland!


About five years ago, I was at a Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Maryland and attended a breakout session on blogging, presented by local children's authors Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm. I went into the session with a vague curiosity about blogging -- but definitely no desire to start doing it myself -- and left with the confidence to try it out, plus the specific idea of blogging about picture books and dance. So in many ways, Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm were the impetus for the creation of Picture Books & Pirouettes!

When Jodie from Growing Book by Book asked me to join the third annual Booking Across the USA project this year -- with the theme of celebrating authors or illustrators from each state -- I knew exactly what I had to do...feature Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm! They actually collaborated to co-write a couple picture books for very young readers, which I'll feature a little later. But first, here's a bit more about Wendie and Mary as individual authors...

About the Authors

Wendie Old has been a storyteller and children's librarian in Maryland for more than 30 years, during which time she has published numerous short stories and magazine articles, four picture books, and seven middle-grade biographies. Among her picture books are To Fly, which is a biography of the Wright brothers for elementary readers, and Stacy Had a Little Sister, which deals with the serious subject of the death of a sibling. You can read more about Wendie and her books here on her website.


Mary Bowman-Kruhm has written more than 30 books for children and teens, including many educational texts. Her latest book is The Leakeys: A Biography, which explores the lives and scientific discoveries of the famous paleontologists Louis and Mary Leakey. In addition to writing, Mary works part-time at the Center for Technology in Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. You can read more about Mary here on her website.

Picture Book Collaborations

Remember how I mentioned that Wendy and Mary collaborated on a couple picture books for very young readers? The first, called Busy Toes, has quite an interesting story behind it. It was actually a collaboration among three writers -- Wendy, Mary, and a freelance writer named Claudine C. Wirth. Rather than having all three of their names on the cover of the book, they decided to write under the pen name C.W. Bowie, and they wrote and polished much of the manuscript over email rather than in person!

The simple text, with illustrations by Fred Willingham, portrays young girls and boys using their toes in many creative ways. "Tippy toes and dancing toes" is my favorite line in the book, but there are many others, such as "BIG TOES, little toes. / Open toes and closed toes / Waving toes / Tickling toes / Doggy tummy rubbing toes."

The creative team of C.W. Bowie and Fred Willingham also went on to write a sequel -- Busy Fingers. Similar to its predecessor, the book is about all the many things that little fingers can do: "Fingers high / Fingers low. / Fingers reach to touch a toe. / Fingers say, 'I love you.' / Fingers wave good-bye, too." 

Movement Activity


Part of the Booking Across the USA project is to share an activity to go with a featured book. Not surprisingly, I chose a movement activity -- and I created it to go with Busy Fingers. The book actually contains 23 different movements that can be done by little fingers, but I picked out the eight ones that seemed easiest to incorporate into an activity.

After reading the book out loud one time, I suggest going through the following phrases from the book and doing the accompanying movements together with your little ones:

  • High: Stretch your arms and fingers up high in the air. This can be done either standing up or sitting down.
  • Low: Stretch your arms and fingers low to the ground. This can also be done in any position.
  • Reach to touch a toe: If you are standing up, bend over and try to touch your feet with your fingertips. If you are sitting down, stretch your legs out in front of you and try to reach your toes.
  • Say 'I love you': Practice saying "I love you" in sign language (see photo below). 


  • Wave good-bye: Ask the children to think of different ways you can wave hello or goodbye. You can wave your fingers so that they open and close, or wave them so all the fingers move together from side to side. You can also try using big movements and small movements to wave. Feel free to explore this concept even more and get creative with how you can wave!
  • Count: Practice counting to ten using one finger at a time. If this is too easy, you can practice counting by twos with your fingers, or adding numbers with sums of 10 or less.
  • Shadows on the wall: Experiment with making shadow puppets with your fingers. If you need some ideas, this YouTube video by professional puppeteer Corina Bona explains how to make some simple shapes like a rabbit, a dog, and a face.
  • Blow a kiss goodnight: You and the little ones can blow kisses to each other and practice catching them different ways with your fingers or whole hand. This is a good way to end the main activity.

And finally, if you want to incorporate art into your exploration of this book, there is a perfect stanza that you can re-read to set the children up for some finger painting and cleanup...

Fingers red, fingers green
Fingers soapy
Fingers clean

You can put red paint on one hand and green paint on the other and explore how different finger movements -- pressing, smearing, drawing -- can create different designs. Throughout the activity, be creative, have fun, and discover all the amazing things that your fingers can do!

Click here to access all the posts from the third annual Booking Across the USA project.
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