December Book Report: Plum by Sean Hays + Scott Icenogle

There’s no shortage of adorable and beautiful holiday books this time of year. I always love meandering the kid’s section at bookstores, and it’s especially fun around the holidays, but there’s always a couple that seem extra special. Plum, by Sean Hays (of Will and Grace fame), and Scott Icenogle, with gorgeously fun illustrations by Robin Thompson, is one of those books.

Plum is a little girl who lives at an orphanage, and, as all likely heroines, has felt a bit of an outcast. But when a big storm arrives and threatens to ruin Christmas, Plum takes things into her own hands to save the holiday. Her pluck and kindness are rewarded by a mysterious magician, and Plum is transported to the Kingdom of Sweets, where she continues to help save the day, and find the family she’s always wanted.

This is a super sweet twist on the classic Nutcracker tale, it’s charming and heart-warming; perfect for any young dancer who can’t get enough of Sugar Plum Fairies, Clara, and the Mouse King!

What are your favorite reads this time of year? Share below, or forward this recommendation on to a friend who you know would enjoy it! Happy Reading!

October Book Report - Monsters, Ghosts & Dragons!

I couldn’t choose just one book for October’s book report, so we’re going with a trinity of books covering Monsters, Ghosts and Dragons! All three of these books are great additions to your creative movement classes, fun inspiration for spooky themed Halloween choreography, or just to enjoy for a bedtime read.

First up is Monster Boogie by the incomparable Laurie Berkner. Many of you are probably familiar with Laurie Berkner’s songs, and We Are The Dinosaurs is a favorite song and dance game in my classes. Monster Boogie has the same fun and silly feel of We Are The Dinosaurs, and is great for exploring size and shape with dancers.

If you’ve got a fan of nursery rhymes, Mother Ghost by Rachel Kolar is going to be the book for you! It cleverly takes traditional nursery rhymes and gives them a Halloween flair. Instead of ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary”, we have “Mary, Mary, tall and scary’. Simple, silly, and good for readers who appreciate a good giggle, this is a wonderful option for October bedtime reads.

There’s a Dragon In Your Book by Tom Fletcher might just be the cutest book I’ve seen all year. With an adorable, clumsy baby dragon and interactive text, this book will have young readers engaged in no time. Tom Fletcher also has a book called There’s a Monster In Your Book, which is equally entertaining. Creative Movement dancers will have a blast flying like dragons, leaping over fire, and letting their beastly imaginations run wild.

Which of these will be on your bookshelf this month? Comment below and let me know!

September Book Report - Up In The Garden & Down In The Dirt

So it's been a little wet in upstate NY lately, but for this week's Book Report I'm channeling my Northern California roots, where September is hot, hot, hot, and many gardens are in their full glory.

Kate Messner's Up In the Garden and Down In The Dirt is a great book for any kid who loves to be outside and get messy (aka - ALL kids). It's also a great one for exploring ecosystems, and in dance class, levels, and size. That's just one of the reasons (one of the others being its gorgeous illustrations) that this book is also a recommended read in the Creative Dance Curriculum (which you can get a FREE download of here!)!

The Creative Dance Curriculum is broken down into 10 modules, each exploring a different dance concept. Additionally, each lesson plan includes a 'Kickstarter'; a book, poem, or short activity that helps dancers understand the concept they'll be exploring. 

Books like this one are some of my favorite to use with young dancers; they're so accessible, fun, and colorful, everyone can't help but enjoy them and get excited about learning!

Get the first Module in the Creative Dance Curriculum below, and then I'd love for you to join me at my Facebook Live conversation I'll be hosting on date, where you can hear me talk more about why I'm so in love with this program, and what, exactly, makes it unique, and valuable to you as a dance educator!

Happy reading, and happy dancing everyone! Hope you see you on Facebook at date!

August Book Report - The Sasquatch And The Lumberjack

When you live in upstate NY, there's no shortage of trees, lakes, and creatures... of all kinds. My New York home, Speculator, has a particular penchant for the legend of Sasquatch, so when I found this month's book, Sasquatch And The Lumberjack at a local store (full disclosure, it's my husband's business, Campstore!) I knew it had to make a sighting on the blog.

Sasquatch And The Lumberjack, by Chrix Sheridan, is a simple tale of two hipster icons: the Sasquatch, and a lumberjack. The book's illustrations are fun and whimsical and while the text is just one word per page, the story provides the opportunity for readers (or dancers) to explore, or even make up their own additional stories. With words to peak the reader's curiosity (winter, pick, and slide), we see Sasquatch and his buddy lumberjack finding adventures galore. I love books like these that leave plenty of space for readers to explore movement and concepts - I can't wait to try it out with my creative movement classes!

Do you have a book you think deserves a spot on the next Book Report? Let me know, I love to hear your recommendations! Happy Reading!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

July Book Report - Animobiles

I'm feeling the heat now that it's mid-July, and I guess we're almost close to the dog days of summer?? (I don't know when that officially is, but we're gonna roll with it). 

So with animals on the mind, let's get down to this month's Book Report - Animobiles, by Maddie Frost! I found this book about a month ago and immediately knew it was something I needed for my young dance classes, because not only is it fun, bright, and catchy, it's full of animals making some awesome moves, and is a perfect book to introduce concepts like pathway, speed, and direction.

Simply written with charming illustrations, this book is best for young readers, but isn't short on themes and ideas to explore with students. From rumbling down the road like a cow car, to flying high like a bird in a plane, this book combines two of many kid's favorite things: animals and moving!

If you teach early childhood dance, I definitely recommend putting this book on your shelf! You can buy it here, and then make sure you check out my free download of my Creative Dance Curriculum for more ideas on how to incorporate story with movement. Happy Reading!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

June Book Report - Uni the Unicorn

Ah summer! The unofficial time to read ALL the books! If you're anything like me, you've got a stack thigh high waiting for your attention, which is where kid's books come in. Picture books are way shorter, easier to read, and involve less commitment than adult books, which is one of the reasons I love them so much. (Plus, colorful illustrations. Duh.) I use children's books a lot in my creative dance classes, and one of my most anticipated programs this summer is Unicorn Dance Camp, so with that in mind, June's Book Report is about one of my most favorite unicorn books ever.

UNI THE UNICORN by Amy Krause Rosenthal

Uni is a typical unicorn (magical, spirited, beautiful), except she believes that there is such a thing as little girls. All her friends and her family just smile knowingly when Uni brings her beliefs up, convinced that she'll grow out of that silly belief, but Uni just knows.

I won't give away any of the rest of this fairytale story that turns tradition on its head, but the gorgeous illustrations by Brigette Barrager draw readers of all ages right in, and will have you all questioning what you really believe in by the end. Plus, there's now a sequel! Uni The Unicorn And The Dream Come True picks up where the first book left off, so the fun can continue!

I can't recommend this sweet series enough, for anyone in your life who loves the magical, or maybe needs to be reminded that believing is at the heart of wonder, these books are for you. Now, I'd love to know - what's on your nightstands these days? Share, comment, and let me know!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

The Book Report: Legendary Ladies

Ooooh I'm super excited to be doing a Book Report blog today, #1 because it's been too long, and #2, because this month's featured book is just SO GOOD!

Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to exhibit A, Ann Shen's amazing Legendary Ladies: 50 Goddesses To Inspire And Empower You. One glance at this book and I was in love! I'd seen Shen's other works, like Bad Girls Throughout History, but Legendary Ladies swept me off my feet just a little more, maybe because the first page I flipped to was Laka, a Hawaiian goddess, and hula dancer.

These pages are filled with goddesses from all over the world, from all cultures and walks of life, and are just so.... badass! I've always been a nut for mythology, and it was wonderful to see a book dedicated to all the ladies of mythology, and hear all the tales of the amazing things they have on their resumes.

How fun would it be to do a recital, performance, or camp based on Shen's book? Or use some of these ladies to guide lesson plans, or introduce dancers to new cultures through dance? I just get so excited at the possibilities!

Please, do me a favor and GO GET THIS BOOK. It'll make you happy and excited, and you probably won't want to share it with your kids (that's totally ok, too). Happy Reading!

Disclosure: some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through my links and make a purchase.

The Book Report - Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You!

If Valentine's Day (or ValenTIMES, as my students call it) isn't the perfect time to grab the sweet people in your life and do a little happy dance, I don't know when is. This month's book report is sure to have you clicking and clacking your toes; it's Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You! by Doreen Cronin. If you're kiddo is a fan of her other books in the Click, Clack, Moo series, they definitely will love this tale as well.

Little Duck is in a festive sprit for Valentine's, and goes about planning the best party, ever. But when a not-so-usual visitor shows up as a guest, Little Duck and the farm animals aren't quite sure what to do. (Spoiler alert - all ends well, and with a dance party!) I love using this book for the rhythmic quality (it's great to explore fast and slow movements with that correspond to the click and clack), and any book with animals in it is sure to get kids moving in all the different ways animals can move. Pair this book and your dance lesson with this playlist for a sweet and fun Valentine's Day lesson. Happy Dancing!

The Book Report - All The Nutcrackers!

If you've been over to my Instagram feed, you know that I'm a liiiiitle obsessed with Nutcracker. I mean, considering that it has been a part of my life for over 20 years (yikes!) that's no surprise, but what DID surprise me was the plethora of Nutcracker books that are out this year! I took a little outing to my local Barnes & Noble last month and was so tickled at all the Nutcracker books there were - for young readers, for teens, and for adults! #Blessed. So, with that in mind, it makes total sense for this month's Book Report to be a Nutcracker round up! Let's dive on in!

Nutcracked

I'd like to think that had I ever been Clara when I was in The Nutcracker (I never was... wah wah) that something like Susan Adrian's story would've happened to me. Heroine Georgie has always dreamed of being Clara in her school's production, but when it actually happens, she realizes it's not all it's cracked up to be (cracked...Nutcracker, get it?!). This is a great read for intermediate readers and is full of whimsy, fun and friendship.

The Nutcracker Mice

Another great option for intermediate readers is Kristin Kladstrup's Nutcracker Mice. Most of us know that mice play a pretty central role in the story of The Nutcracker, but in this tale, the mice take the stage as the dancer and performers of Tchaikovsky's classic. The story has lots of plot twists and turns, and honestly, how great is it that the ballet gets to be performed by the famous mice dancers who live in the Mariinsky Theater? I love any book that shines a new perspective on an old tradition, and Nutcracker Mice most certainly does that!

Nutcracker in Harlem

It's about time we saw some diversity in where The Nutcracker takes place, and T. McMorrow's version does just that. On Christmas Eve, there's a snazzy and jazzy party happening in Harlem, and it's the music, dancing, and support of friends and family that helps one girl find her voice and her niche. Pick this book up for a breath of fresh air and good dose of warm and fuzzies. 

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Sometimes stories don't need words. When I first got Elly MacKay's Waltz of the Snowflakes, I was expecting words, but her gorgeous illustrations speak for themselves. A holiday evening is lit up by the dancing, music, and magic onstage seeing The Nutcracker as a little girl is transported into a colorful world. I can't wait to share this book with my students, I know they're going to love it as much as I do.

Hiddensee

Gregory Maguire fans have new cause to rejoice with his release of Hiddensee. Maguire tells the backstory of the Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer, and how the wooden toy came to help Clara on a dark winter night. This book is definitely for adults, and reads like an old fairy tale. I'm in the middle of it myself and find it interesting and mysterious. It's a great choice for a cold night by the fire.

Which of these will you be reading this Nutcracker season? Comment below, or hit me up on social media to let me know! Happy Reading! 

November Book Report - Windows

As soon as I saw Julia Denos' book Windows, I knew it had to be this month's Book Report, because the view out of my own windows has dramatically changed over the past few weeks.

For those of you who don't know, I moved myself and my budding business to upstate New York earlier this year (you can read more about that adventure here), and within just the past few weeks the season has definitely changed from fall to winter.

A similar thing happens in Windows; through the gorgeous illustrations by E.B. Goodale, readers take a twilight walk through a city and see some beautiful things changing. Day into night, playtime into dinnertime, and all the while we get a glimpse into our neighbor's lives and homes, full of love, tradition, and a sense that no matter where we come from, we've been there with them before.

I think one of the things that my adult self loves about children's books is the sense of nostalgia I get from them. They remind me of such wonderful story times as a child, and give me new insight to life lessons as a grown up. Windows pulls at my nostalgic childhood heart strings of warm lights, cozy winter nights, and the love of family. It's the perfect addition to your November reading list, and I'd love to know what you think! What's on your bookshelves that you love to share with your kids and friends during this month? Let me know! Happy Reading!