Title: Just Dance
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Major Themes: Farm Life, Singing, Opera, Wyoming
Synopsis: As she spends a summer helping the sheriff by writing his column in the newspaper, Sylvie wonders if she is holding her mother back from fulfilling her dreams.
I have read a couple of books by Patricia MacLachlan before; her Sarah, Plain and Tall is very well known. I had never come across Just Dance before, though, until it was scheduled as a read-aloud in the Sonlight guide I’m using with my 6-year-old daughter. It was quite a different story than I expected.
Sylvie Bloom couldn’t understand her mother. Mother was a famous opera star before she met a man in a diner in Wyoming who swept her off her feet. She married him, lived with him on his farm, and had two children. But, Sylvie wondered, why did she do it? Did she regret her choice? Did she want to go back to the life in the limelight which she had once had? And, with her old duet partner coming to sing nearby, would that lure Mother away from the family?
Sylvie has more things to think about, too. The sheriff asked her to help write his column for the newspaper this summer. That meant riding around with him and meeting people so she could collect news to write about. She started finding her own voice—but was she holding her mother back from finding hers, at the same time? How could Sylvie find the answers she needed?
I ended up really liking Just Dance. Sylvie is learning to find beauty and poetry in everyday happenings, and to express what she sees. Little by little, she is also learning to understand the people around her. She also learns the power of love, as she sees it in the sheriff, in Tinker, and in her own parents. This is a story that can make you think deeply, and can stay with you a long time. I’m not sure how much a child will get out of it, other than the basic storyline, but adults can get a lot out of it!
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12