PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
As a children’s book author who visits many schools, I am well aware of the numerous awards given out to kids these days. There seems to be a trend toward rewarding children out of obligation rather than for outstanding work. When I was in elementary school, receiving an award was a really big deal; it meant that you accomplished something extraordinary, something to be truly proud of. It taught us that hard work is the only way to get to the top.
Footwork ($14.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 6-10) by Roxane Orgill is the story of how Fred Astaire rose to fame. It was Fred’s older sister, Adele, who was the dancer in the family. But after watching his sister so often, Fred really wanted to dance, too. Eventually their mother took them to New York to get dancing lessons, which led them to Vaudeville. But after they started getting a bit older, audiences were no longer interested in their craft. It was Fred’s unfaltering desire to succeed as well as his love of dance that helped him rise above his challenges and also rise to world-wide fame.
I enjoyed the cheerful watercolor illustrations by Stephane Jorisch, and found they really enhanced the story. So many chapter books do not have illustrations, but I always prefer when they do.
Footwork shows young readers that great accomplishments require dedication and hard, hard work, perhaps the best lesson that we can teach our kids. For most people, shortcuts are not a realistic way to achieve success. And by reading about the long, tough road Fred Astaire took to become the best dancer in America, they, too, will be inspired to work hard at whatever it is they wish to do. After all , there are no awards in the real world for mediocrity. Fred Astaire became the best at what he did by taking one step at a time, with no shortcuts, no favors and no “luck.” He paved his own way and by doing so teaches us that there’s simply no replacement for plain old hard work.