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Dance Like a Leaf

Barefoot. Aug. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781646860579; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781646860586.
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PreS-Gr 2–A paean to autumn, love, and loss. A young girl treasures the beginning of fall with her grandmother, drinking tea and dancing together among the colorful trees. As the days pass, the older woman, with tan skin and dark textured hair, grows more tired and forgetful. Irving’s spare, poignant text pairs the season’s changes with the grandmother’s decline, previewing her passing with the cycle of the leaves. The young girl persists in sharing their favorite fall activities, adapting them for her grandmother’s needs. Expressive acrylic paintings retain a vibrant palette throughout the story, punctuating the rich, autumnal colors with teals and purples. But the emotional weight of the impending loss emerges clearly in the two characters’ body language; the grandmother grows more hunched and withdrawn, while the girl’s posture signals increased anxiety, until the page where she sits on the bed, alone. By the following autumn, the girl goes out to dance in the trees, accompanied by a joyful image of her grandmother in the swooping leaves. Less specific than Jessie Oliveros’s The Remember Balloons or Pat Mora’s My Singing Nana, the book does not provide details about loss but highlights the girl’s resilience.
VERDICT This evocative pairing of story and art creates a tone poem and lesson, a lovely reflection on the seasons of life, and a gentle lead-in to discussion of death and renewal.

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