cover image The Girl Who Wanted to Dance

The Girl Who Wanted to Dance

Amy Ehrlich, , illus. by Rebecca Walsh. . Candlewick, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1345-7

Both a haunting fairy tale and a parable for families separated by divorce or death, this lyrically rendered story also presents art as a vehicle for transcending pain. In a long-ago village, Clara lives with her silent father and loving grandmother, who tells her about her absent mother, a lover of music and dance. When musicians come to the village, Clara cannot resist their lure and slips away to the forest to dance with them at night; she comes close to joining them, but her father stops her—by coming out to the forest, recognizing his wife among the dancers, joining her briefly and forgiving her for leaving: “I understand you can’t come back.” Ehrlich (Baby Dragon ) knows precisely how to turn description into the foundation of fairy tale (as Clara wades across a river, “the edge of her nightgown grew dark with water”), and her bittersweet ending barricades the story against didacticism. Working in a representational style, Walsh (How the Tiny People Grew Tall ) adds lush paintings of an idealized old world, and her nighttime scenes glow. Ages 6-10. (Feb.)