Inspiring Reads for Young Dancers and Aspiring Performers

May makes me think about dance, probably because my daughter is a dancer and has a spring performance every year. May might not bring the same thoughts of twirling tutus to your head but if you have a dancer you might enjoy sharing these books. And if you don’t have a dancer yet, reading these books might inspire your kiddo to try leaping and spinning into the nearest studio.

Sandra Boynton is a national treasure. Her board books combine the perfect mix of silliness, fun illustrations and rollicking rhymes. Dinosaur Dance or Barnyard Dance are both perfect examples of her style. As a parent, I appreciated that no matter how many times my kids demanded a Boynton book to be read and re-read, I didn’t get tired of them myself. And who could resist bouncing bunnies, strutting ducks, a tapping Triceratops or a stomping Tyrannosaurs Rex?

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is a wordless picture book and Caldecott Honor Book that features a little girl in bathing cap and flippers who does a synchronized dance with a flamingo. The concept is simple (and weird) but the pictures are incredibly charming. If your kid loves Flora, you can also see her dance with other feathered friends in Flora and the Penguin, Flora and the Ostrich and Flora and the Peacocks.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae features a giraffe who wants to join in the Great Jungle Dance but gets laughed at because he’s clumsy and just can’t dance. But one night he finds his own special music played by a cricket and learns that anyone can dance, when they have the right music.

Unlike the giraffe in the previous book, the hippo in Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson CAN dance and does. She doesn’t really care what others think of her dancing. The other animals like it but it’s really loud so they try and convince her to try another hobby but Hilda just can’t stop dancing. In the end they find a solution that satisfies everyone.

Brontorina by James Howe is the story of another unusual dancer. Brontorina dreams of being a dancer and dancing with the boys and girls at Madame Lucille’s school. But she’s too big and doesn’t have the right shoes. Not to mention she’s a dinosaur. A similar book featuring an unusual dancer is Dance is for Everyone by Andrea Zuill with Tanya, the 450 pound alligator who joins Mrs. Iraina’s ballet school one day and to everyone’s surprise turns out to be quite a dancer.

Your kids may already know Angelina Ballerina from the animated TV series but if they haven’t read the original book by Katharine Holabird it’s time to give it a try. Angelina is a little mouse who just wants to dance so much that she forgets all the other things she is supposed to do like cleaning her room. There is a large series of books featuring Angelina and her adventures in dance and beyond.

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor finds Fancy Nancy thrilled about the ballet her school is going to do about mermaids. However, another dancer gets the main role and Nancy has to be a tree. This book does what the Fancy Nancy books do best: deals with a common feeling and conflict that kids have in a way that feels natural and also shows a way of dealing with that emotion. And of course there is a lot of pink and a lot of glitter.

Boys Dance by John Robert Allman is a great book written in partnership with the American Ballet Theatre and their company’s male dancers. The book shows that ballet is truly for everyone. Rachel Isadora’s Max also features a boy dancer who starts dancing in his sister’s class and finds it fun. He also loves baseball and one of the best things about this book is that it shows you can be both…a kid who loves sports and dance.

Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows is for those kids who maybe tried ballet and didn’t love it. Or those who love dance but also love funny books. Ivy and Bean are best friends (and the main characters in a great early reader series, this is Book 6 but they don’t have to be read in order) who decided they must take a ballet class after reading a book about the ballet, Giselle. They quickly realize that their expectation (of dancing like the dancers in Giselle) is not what a class for seven year olds is really like.

Another author who just understands kids is Beverly Clearly. Less well known than Ramona, Ellen Tebbits is a book featuring another funny and relatable heroine. Ellen is an average girl who has to deal with normal childhood things: a fight with a best friend, an annoying neighborhood boy, and dance class.

No list of dance books could ever be complete without Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Featuring three orphans raised as sisters who join an Academy of Dancing and Stage Training in order to raise money for their adopted family, this is a classic.