Why We Dance

Why We DanceFebruary 6, 2024 with Abrams Books for Young Readers, written by Indigenous children’s author Deidre Havrelock and illustrated by Aly McKnight  

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection



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Preparations are underway for a special day for our young protagonist and her cousin. Mom and Auntie have laid out the Jingle Dresses and organized the regalia, making sure the belts, buckles, and earrings glimmer and shine. Next, makeup is applied and hair is smoothed and braided, all with a touch of glitter. Dad has packed the lunch and now the family is off, the girls working through their nerves for the big performance at the family gathering. Finally, the drums begin to “Rum-Rum-Tum,” and the ceremony starts, with dresses jingling “Tink-Tink-Tink-Tink” as the girls dance in gratitude to the Creator and in honor of their ancestors and those who cannot dance. The specifics and cultural context of the Jingle Dress are left to the author’s note, allowing the text to focus fully on the emotion of the day, from the girls’ excitement and nervousness to the entire community’s love of and devotion to a tradition that honors elders and ancestors while growing contemporarily. Rhythmic language and dappled watercolor illustrations work together to create a gentle but absorbing sense of motion, and the close-ups on sparkling regalia and the Jingle Dresses highlight their significance to the event. Figures have a soft looseness and subtly blend into background, evoking a feeling of connectedness throughout each scene. Share this alongside Thundercloud’s Finding My Dance (BCCB 10/22) for a musical lesson in modern Indigenous dance. Author and illustrator’s notes provide more information on the Jingle Dress Dance and the powwow circle. 

The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books

Recommended (R)

indigenous girl dances the jingle dress dance children's book