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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

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.

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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Did She or Didn’t She?

A Handful of Lies

Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It, by Michael B. Kaplan with illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch, is the third in a series of picture books from Dial Books ($16.99, ages 3-5).

9780803738584H

I think a lot of parents know a child like Betty Bunny, funny, genuine, a real character at times but also still a little kid learning her way in the world, even if sometimes it’s the wrong way.

This story finds Betty trying to get out of trouble for breaking a lamp. While her three siblings know she was responsible, Betty claims, “I didn’t do it.” Then it hits her when her brother Bill asks who did. “The Tooth Fairy,” replies Betty, quite pleased she came up with such a good excuse.

It’s not long before Betty’s mom confronts her daughter about breaking the lamp. And Betty still denies having done it.

“Is that the honest truth?” asked her mother.

“No,” said Betty Bunny proudly, “it’s an honest lie.”

The lesson Betty learns about telling the truth is one her whole family jumps in on which is what I especially liked about this picture book. The brothers and sister share their two cents which is how it works in most families.  Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It provides a terrific starting point for parents to discuss honesty and the ramifications of crying wolf – if you always lie, when will people believe you?  The watercolor, pen and ink illustrations are full of expression and depict the family dynamic in a clear and colorful style certain to delight.

After Betty embraces honesty and tells her dad who has just returned from the gym that he smells, Betty’s dad also teaches her that while telling the truth is good, it’s important not to hurt someone’s feelings. For youngsters learning how to successfully navigate the world of social conventions and manners, lots of baby steps (or in Betty’s case – hops) are required and many mistakes will be made. This book helps by showing children great examples in a very humorous, relatable way.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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