It's warm outside, and the humidity is making my hair a little crazy. We're surrounded by concrete, multi-level highways, and the sound of cars whizzing around us. Our windows are down, and the familiar scent of beef brisket is making its way into the rental car. We're in Houston again!
My husband and I met when we were both graduate students here, and it has been more than a decade since we've been back. We're off to San Antonio in a few days, but until then we've been visiting friends and dining at some of our favorite restaurants in Houston. Really, truly, I think we are spending most of our time eating!
It's so nice to be back in the place where our story began so many years ago. While we're here, I thought I'd also tell you about another story that has some roots in Houston...
Dance, Y'all, Dance is a picture book written by Kelly Bennett, who at one time was the regional advisor for the Houston chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Bright Sky Press, the independent publisher who published the book in 2009, is also based in Houston.
Written in rhyme to the actual beat of the Texas Two-Step, Dance, Y'all, Dance transports readers back in time to a traditional Texas dance hall. There, community members of all ages gather for some live music, country dancing, and socialization after a long week of work.
It's Saturday night. The Dance Hall's aglow.
Call Grams and our friends. Head to town for the show.
We worked hard all week. The chores are all done.
A country band's playin'. Let's join the fun.
Step-step, glide, glide,
Kick up your feet.
Dance y'all dance,
To a two-steppin' beat.
The author's note at the back of the book gives some background information on dance halls and on the Texas Two-Step, known also as the Western Swing in its advanced form. The simple Two-Step is a partner dance consisting of two quick steps followed by two slow steps, repeated over time as couples circle the dance floor. Once a couple masters the simple steps, they can try more complicated variations with names like the Sweetheart Surprise and the Pretzel.
Step-step, glide, glide,
Cross arms and spin.
Slide up, swing 'round,
What a Pretzel you're in!
What I most love about this book is its community feel, as author Kelly Bennett gives readers a glimpse into the lives of a wide range of characters. Lil' Sister is begging her Pop to teach her the dance steps. Young Sallie and Jem are dancing cheek-to-cheek after having just been married earlier in the day. And little old Aunt May is twirling so fast that her false teeth fly out right onto the dance floor!
The illustrations by Terri Murphy are a perfect match for the text, giving a strong old-fashioned country flavor to the book and making the funny parts of the text even funnier. For example, when two characters named Amy Lou and Bubba try a new twirl and end up stepping in bubble gum, the illustrations exaggerate the size of the couple's shoes and the long, sticky strands of gum that are tethering the shoes to the floor.
If you get a chance to read this book, you just might find yourself searching for a dance hall to try out some of your own country dance steps. And in case your dancing boots need some repairs, I think I've found the perfect place...if you are in Houston, that is. I always knew that Houston was a great place to come for medical care, but who knew the city had hospitals for shoes, too!
This post is also part of Poetry Friday, so two-step your way over to Random Noodling to see more of this week's roundup. And hope y'all are enjoying National Poetry Month!