Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Celebration of Women...and a Giveaway!

For so many families, the past two years been tumultuous--saturated with unexpected changes, necessary adjustments, and a heavy dose of soul searching along the way. That's how it's been for my family, so unfortunately my blog didn't get much attention during the thick of it all. But...I am back. I am ready to reboot my blog. I am ready to talk some more about picture books and dance!!

Since it is International Women's Day, what better way to celebrate than to feature a picture book full of women who both made history and informed the future, helping pave the way for so many who came after them. And this is Picture Books & Pirouettes, after all, so this book must be about dancers :)

Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy is a compilation of 27 stories of Black ballerinas who fought back against discrimination throughout the past 100 years and influenced the career of the book's author, Misty Copeland, who made history herself as the first Black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. Each story in the book is very personal, with Misty describing not only biographical information about each dancer but also detailed thoughts and feelings about her own connection the women. I actually got goosebumps reading some of the stories!

Each story is accompanied by a full-page drawing of the featured dancer by illustrator Salena Barnes. The art is contemporary and whimsical, with a wonderful sense of movement and joy and a soft pallet of greys, golds, pinks, and blues. Each illustration is also accompanied by an inspirational quote by the dancer. Although this picture book is not intended for the youngest children, it is a powerful book for older children through adults interested in dance, history, and the strength of women.


Luck was on my side not too long ago when I was browsing the children's section of a book store and came across a copy of Black Ballerinas that was signed by Misty Copeland. Of course I snapped it up. And today I would like to offer it to one of you!

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and either follow up with the comments or leave your contact information so I can reach you if you win. One idea is to leave a comment about a special woman (past or present) who has influenced your own life. 

The giveaway will close at 12:00 am EST on March 16, 2022, and I will use a random number generator to choose the winner. Good luck, and Happy International Women's Day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

#BlackLivesMatter #BlackStoriesMatter

I'm still looking for words for what is happening in our country right now. Our youngest daughter, who is 13, is also looking for words. I think she is off to a good start with the sign she made below. We're planning to attend the outskirts of a peaceful demonstration in our hometown on Friday, and these are the words she will carry with her...

I haven't made my sign yet but am going to include this incredibly beautiful tribute (below) that our friend in Chicago, Meenakshi Dash, painted. She has given permission to share it, with or without credit, so feel free to do so if you are as moved by it as I was. Her painting has helped calm me amidst the turmoil and allowed me to begin thinking about how I can take action in this time of change...

Painting of George Floyd by Meenakshi Dash (2020)

Earlier today, a Black colleague at my workplace offered suggestions on how all of us can be part of the change. (Thanks, Shawnda!) Stand up immediately if someone says or does something racist, whether that person realizes it or not. Push through the awkwardness you might feel. Make and display a sign, like my daughter did. Attend a protest. Educate yourself about racism, African American history, police brutality. Start a conversation with family and friends.

I would like to add that you can read or share a book by a Black author or a Black illustrator. Here are a few whose picture books I have featured on my blog. If you click on the author and illustrator links, you can learn more about the creators and see some of their truly amazing portfolios. The book links take you to my blog posts, some of which include interviews or stories about meeting the creators...

Author: Michelle Meadows
Illustrator: Ebony Glenn
Book: Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
Book: Hibernation Station

Illustrator: Theodore Taylor III
Foreword: Misty Copeland
Book: Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson

Author: Valerie Bolling 
Book: Let's Dance!

Author: Connie Schofield-Morrison
Illustrator: Frank Morrison
Book: I Got the Rhythm 

Author: Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Book: Mirandy and Brother Wind 

Here are a couple other fantastic resources for finding children's books that feature Black characters and voices:

The Brown Bookshelf 
"Brown Like Me" Books

If you have particular Black authors or Black illustrators you admire, or other websites you recommend, please give them a shoutout in the comments below. #BlackLivesMatter #BlackStoriesMatter

Friday, March 6, 2020

Let's Celebrate Dance and Diversity!

Happy book birthday -- on March 3, 2020, to be exact -- to the new picture book Let's Dance! by author Valerie Bolling and illustrator Maine DiazI've been in contact with Valerie and am excited to both tell you and show you more about her lively new book and how it came to be!

Author Valerie Bolling

In only about 60 words of rhyming text, Let's Dance! manages to introduce readers to 10 types of dance and spread the messages that dance is fun and dance is for everyone. Valerie says she knew from the very beginning that she wanted this book to celebrate diversity and wanted her words "to promote a world in which marginalized and/or underrepresented children can see themselves and feel valued and heard." 

Luckily Valerie's editor Jes Negron agreed and expanded on her vision by making the theme more global. "Where I saw Tappity-Tap/Fingers Snap as tap dance, she imagined flamenco from Spain," says Valerie. "I envisioned the electric slide for Glide and Slide/Side to Side, but Jes suggested long-sleeve dancing from China. I was thrilled with her ideas!"

As you can see from the two images above, Maine Diaz really delivered on Valerie's vision of diversity and the global theme. Her 20 amazingly vibrant illustrations, including images of a boy in a wheelchair and a child in a tutu whose gender is not discernible, really pop off the page.

Maine also weaves different shapes into her illustrations -- like large and small circles and curls in the two images above and triangles, stars, and more in many others. When the smaller shapes scattered throughout the book are combined, they add a celebratory feel, acting like confetti!

Let's Dance! is Valerie's debut picture book, and she's busy writing more. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram, and of course you can celebrate dance and diversity by reading her book!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Art and Heart by Dow Phumiruk

Valentine's Day has passed, but it's always a good time to share a poem about love. Here's a short verse about loving yourself by artist Dow Phumiruk, accompanied by adorable ballerinas holding hearts. You can see more of Dow's beautiful portfolio of art and creativity at Art by Dow. Enjoy!

Maybe you'd like to share your heart.
Love yourself first. That's the best place to start!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

An Alphabet of Learning, Movement, and Fun!

Time to play and have some fun, 
trying new things one by one.
Are you ready? Are you set? 
Let's explore the alphabet!

As a lover of both writing and movement, I am always looking for children's books that truly integrate the two. The new picture book From A to Z with Energy by Connie Bergstein Dow and Gareth Llewhellin does exactly that, introducing young children to the alphabet while teaching them about the importance of movement and encouraging them to make movement part of their regular routine.

Image courtesy of Free Spirit Publishing

As the book goes through each letter of the alphabet, a group of children experiment with movements ranging from climbing, wading, and hiking to dribbling, kicking, and passing. Interspersed between all the movements are some equally important lessons on healthy living in general.

L is for a healthy lunch
that gives you fuel to grow.
M is for your muscles, 
from your head to your big toe.

As you can tell from the images above, the illustrations by Gareth Llewhellin only add to the exuberance emanating from this book. What a diverse and friendly bunch of children included on each and every page! From camping trips to sled rides to baseball games, the settings that Gareth created only highlight the point that movements can be done everywhere!

It might come as no surprise that the mastermind behind this book, author Connie Bergstein Dow, is both a writer and a mover herself. After receiving an MFA in dance from the University of Michigan, Connie danced professionally in both the United States and South America, and she has also been a dance educator for many years. She has written two books on integrating movement into early childhood classrooms and has published poetry in Highlights High Five and Highlights Hello magazines. From A to Z with Energy is her debut picture book, and what a perfect fit for her background!

Something that sets this book apart from many others is that it includes a six-page guide at the back explaining the physical and social-emotional benefits of movement and providing parents, teachers, and caregivers with a variety of movement activities to supplement those mentioned in the book. Half of the movement activities use prompts from the book, and half can be used alongside the book or independently. All of the activities are designed to use movement to explore the letters of the alphabet.

Now that I know more about Connie, the inspiration for this unique book and guide makes a whole lot of sense! Learn more about Connie, her books, and her ideas at her website, Moving Is Learning!

Connie leading a movement activity during a
recent school visit for A to Z with Energy.
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