Written by: Nancy Bo Flood
Illustrated by: Julianna Swaney
For ages: 4 years and up
Topics Covered: Dance, LGBTQ Families, Cerebral Palsy, Disability, Friendship, Acceptance, Goals, True Story.
This is an absolutely beautiful story about a real girl who yearned to find a dance company that would accept her. Eva has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She’s worried she won’t ever be able to dance onstage, because there isn’t adequate representation of dancers with differing styles and abilities. One day Eva’s mothers (yes, she has 2!) take her to a dance studio (that’s modeled on a real dance program called Young Dance) and Eva finds a group that welcomes her with open arms.
The book is written in first person, and a lot of Eva’s narrative is fear that she won’t find a place to dance. It shies away from an inspiration-disability narrative, which I was so pleased about. The story is about finding a place where Eva feels comfortable and valued, which is something that all humans want. Throughout the story Eva hears things like “pretend you’re dancing” but it’s not good enough for her (nor should it be) because she deserves to be included and have the hobbies she loves. When Eva finds her Young Dance community, she feels at home.
Another detail about the book is that it’s not even mentioned that Eva has 2 moms, it completely normalizes this family structure by just having it in the background. The illustrations are beautiful and diverse, as well as convey flowing movement of every character in the story.
The author of this book is able-bodied (to the best of my knowledge) but has worked with schools and families to create inclusive programming for disabled children. There is also a note in the back from the director of Young Dance, telling more about the organization.
This book was kindly sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. It’s to be released tomorrow, 5/26!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Throughout Nancy’s life she has enjoyed reading, writing, and sharing stories.
In college Nancy wanted to learn about the brain. How do we remember; why do we forget; why we want to try new things? Just how does our brain work? So she became a research psychologist and studied brain development at the University of Minnesota and as a post-doctoral scientist at the University of London. That might seem like a long way from writing books for kids, but it’s not.
Her work has always focused on children and young adults – as a researcher, counselor, teacher, parent, and now as a writer. Nancy has conducted workshops on child abuse, learning disabilities, play therapy, and creative writing. Her work and research has allowed Nancy to live all over the world – in Malawi, Africa, Hawaii, Japan, the western Pacific, and, most recently, the Navajo Nation where she hikes, rides her bike and attends local rodeos.
Julianna Swaney is a freelance illustrator whose work is inspired by whimsical details of daily life and the fairy tales she loved reading as a child. Julianna grew up homeschooled which allowed free range for her imagination and interests in folklore, animals, nature, and history. She studied printmaking at Maine College of Art (BFA 2005), and now lives in Portland, Oregon.
All of Julianna’s drawings are created with pencil and watercolor or gouache on paper.