4 out of 4 stars
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The Big City Dance by Valerie Doherty is a lively children’s storybook about a rodent with mixed emotions. As the story begins, readers meet Moe Doodle, a country mouse who sits around barefoot while wearing a red bandana and overalls. His best friends are farm animals, and he expresses to them his desire to leave his rural life behind. He starts to envision tuxedos and top hats, and he quickly sets off in search of some thrilling, urban adventures! While the bright lights and tall buildings of the large city do excite him, he does start to feel lonely and homesick as he begins to miss his old pals.
He decides to combat his feelings with distraction, so he buys some shiny dancing shoes and sets out to learn a new skill. While attending his first dance class, he meets a female mouse named Sal. As he and his new dance partner actively practice the jive, their friendship soon blossoms, and Moe starts to thrive! He courageously calls up his old country friends and invites them to visit and take part in his wins.
This 25-page story featured a mix of succinct lines of text and illustrations on every page. The snippets of dialogue were lively and engaging, and the terminology felt approachable and appropriate for little readers. Most of the typed content exhibited catchy, rhyming rhetoric, and I suspect kids would love the interspecies blend of animal friends. From a visual perspective, all of the depictions were colorful, charming, and full of personality. Bright red umbrellas, matchboxes, cupcakes, fire hydrants, and tiny campfires in cola cans made me smile, but I really enjoyed seeing a chicken answer a rotary-dial telephone. I loved all of the quirky illustrations by Brenda Higgins, and the fairytale images complemented the scenes nicely. Musical notes were even sprinkled around the pages like dancing particles of rhythmic confetti.
I only encountered a few small errors while reading, but they did not affect my overall enjoyment of the story. There was nothing about the book I disliked, and I think kids with active imaginations and wiggly bursts of energy would love seeing so many straightforward action-word prompts, such as “twirl, clap, jump, stomp, bend, shake, and swirl.” The storyline stressed the importance of progressive, forward movement in life. It also aimed to discourage whining, pouting, and periods of self-pity.
I do feel this book would be appropriate for the target reader age range of three years and up, and I would recommend it to kids who love music, movement, and well-dressed mice. Parents and guardians might need to help with pronunciation and explanation of some of the mentioned dances, especially since many of them aren’t as current and popular as they once were. Throughout the book, I encountered comments about the jitterbug, twist, cha-cha, polka, waltz, merengue, and Lindy Hop.
I think this title would make a great addition to any early childhood curriculum, and I do feel that it has the potential to spark layered incorporation of other multicultural activities like cooking. For instance, kids could sample flavors of salsa while learning to salsa dance. I gladly award this whimsical little book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Themes of friendship, courage, bravery, determination, confidence, yearning, and perseverance fill the pages with exciting possibilities. Doherty dedicates this story to those who choose to dance, and I wholeheartedly support any children’s book that encourages kids to remain active and hopeful!
The Big City Dance (children's picture book-3 years and up)
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