cover image Dancing Matilda

Dancing Matilda

Sarah Hager. HarperCollins, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-051452-5

The verses in newcomer Hager's jaunty rhyme about a kangaroo's love of dance are contagious, and both art and text convey an insouciant joy that may well encourage youngsters to dance through life themselves. This bouncy toddler cannot get enough of what she loves. She hops out of bed into her huge, pink shoes with neat pink bows and begins dancing to the tune of a different drummer: ""Dancing Matilda/ Dances out of bed,/ Dances to the drumbeat/ Dancing in her head!"" Murphy's (The Boll Wevil Ball) playful paintings feature a child so rambunctious the adults around her seem either bemused or startled as she twirls by. In Matilda's kangaroo-populated town, the light at the crosswalk instructs pedestrians to hop instead of walk. The heroine dances with her stuffed koala bear and grooves in front of the Kookaburra Krush band poster above her bed. Following each verse, the rhythm of the poem changes to resemble the beat of the familiar Kookaburra song refrain: ""Dance, Miss Matilda! Dance, Miss Matilda!/ Dance and dance/ and dance."" Matilda's father can't even catch her long enough for a bear hug, and when her parents send her outside, she glides through town and back home at night, until her mother finally says ""stop!"" But even then, Matilda ends up dancing-if only in her dreams. Ages 3-7.