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Footwork, The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire by Roxane Orgill

by Roxane Orgill with illustrations by Stephane Jorisch
by Roxane Orgill
with illustrations by
Stephane Jorisch


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.

Interior illustration by Stephane Jorisch from Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire by Roxane Orgill (Candlewick Press)
Interior illustration by Stephane Jorisch from Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire by Roxane Orgill
(Candlewick Press)

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.

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Free Books on The Performing Arts & Traces Tickets Giveaway

I have just two words for you: free books. Interested? Read on …

Money’s tight not only for families but for school districts all over L.A. Cutbacks mean many of our schools have had to eliminate arts education programs. As parents we must try not let the state’s budget cuts impact our kids because who knows – we may be raising the next Bernadette Peters, Leonard Bernstein or Justin Timberlake?!

Because of that, it’s great to know that The Music Center’s longest-running education program, The Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, will continue to bring exciting performing arts experiences for free to more than 18,000 fifth grade students from all over LA County from April 23-25 of this year. Students will experience the power of live performing arts as they see a performance from Traces, a modern brand of circus infused with the energy of street performance, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Afterwards, they will dance together, en masse, on The Music Center Plaza, a dance they have rehearsed in advance in their classrooms, incorporating music and movements from the professional performance. Every student who attends the Festival will receive a copy of the book, A Journey Through The Music Center, which introduces them to The Music Center and various aspects of the performing arts.

2013 MC Front cover_V4

And now for the first time, The Music Center is offering parents and guardians an opportunity to get a copy of A Journey Through The Music Center for free; formerly the book has been available only to students who attended the festival. The book is available in limited quantities for a limited period of time. Parents/guardians can visit to request a copy.

This keepsake book makes information about the performing arts very accessible and understandable. Parents and students will especially appreciate the book’s attention to the vocabulary words. What is an oboe? What is a resident company? What does it meant to strike the set? What does a theater house manager do? Students will be able to answer those questions and more as they enjoy the book’s beautiful photographs and illustrations, storylines and special attention to personalizing the experiences associated with the performing arts.

To celebrate the performing arts, Good Reads With Ronna is giving away a $220 four pack of tickets to the Friday, April 26, 2013 performance at 7:30 p.m. of Traces at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Just click here to enter. You must include your name, phone number, email and postal address in the email to be officially entered into the giveaway. Tickets will be available at Will Call on the evening of performance.  Click here for the rules or scroll down below.  The giveaway ends on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at midnight and the winner will be selected and notified on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Good luck!


  1. Beginning Thursday, April 18 we’re offering one reader the chance to win a family four pack to see TRACES worth a total value of $220 ($55 each)     at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Simply LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to by midnight Tuesday, April 23, 2013 and you’ll be entered to win. Remember to write ARTS in the subject line. This winner and three guests will attend the Friday, April 26, 2013 performance at 7:30 p.m. with tickets available at Will Call for collection.
  2. The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 and one winner will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. For an additional entry please follow us on Twitter @goodreadsronna too! If you don’t provide an email where you can be contacted your chance to win is forfeited.
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A Biseleh (a little) Bit of Yiddish and Comedy Stars

9781439152829Yiddish for Babies, A Language Primer for Your Little Pitsel,

written and illustrated by Janet Perr (Simon & Schuster, $12.99, all ages) puts this language that is related to German and spoken by Ashkenazi Jews at your fingertips. Maybe you’ve heard some Yiddish words and expressions or perhaps you’ve even used them. Schlep(p), for example, a Yiddish word I use all the time which means to carry or to lug, as in I schlepped this heavy backpack around all day and now my shoulders hurt, has become part of the American lexicon.

When I was a kid and my parents spoke Yiddish in hushed tones so that my brother and I couldn’t hear, I would often catch snippets of conversation and if the word gelt came up, I knew they were speaking about money issues. Now with this humorous visual primer, parents and children alike can learn this rich language and begin using it immediately.

Bubbe – grandmother

Baby has so much fun when her bubbe comes to visit.

If the pictures don’t make you laugh, the sentences surely will!

Ferklempt (emotional, ready to cry), made famous by comedian Mike Meyers on Saturday Night Live, is demonstrated with a photo of a tired baby wiping its eyes.

It’s naptime and baby’s getting a little ferklempt.

Kvelling, a word my parents said frequently at bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings means proud, bursting with joy.

Baby made in the potty, and mommy is kvelling.

Oy, it’s obvious I could go on and on about all the terrific Yiddish words included, the fab and funny photos and the apt descriptions, but I think you’ve got my drift so zai gezunt (be well, good-bye)!

978-0-8225-9942-5_medJewish Comedy Stars: Class to Cutting Edge

by Norman H. Finkelstein (Kar-Ben, $9.99, ages 11 and up)

You’ve heard the the line: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

Kids today may be familiar with Jon Stewart, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Ben Stiller, but we need to jump back in time to the roots of comedy “shtick” to really understand how it’s evolved.

Tying into the book review above, it’s hard to talk about Yiddish and not bring up Jewish comedians going back almost a century. Jewish comedians have had a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and this easy-to-read primer on who’s who from the 20th through 21st centuries will introduce kids to a few a names they might not know and even more that they do. In over 40 mini biographies, author Finkelstein, explores the backgrounds of such luminaries as Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle +and so many more.

Kids will get a kick from reading about The Three Stooges’ slapstick humor to the original shock jock Lenny Bruce as well as the pre-Borat days of Sasha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G.). From Vaudeville, to Broadway and Film, TV to Comedy Central, the community of Jewish comedians is as rich and diverse as the jokes and stories they tell.

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