Friday, July 5, 2019

Review - Jingle Dancer

Jingle Dancer
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu
Date: 2000
Publisher: William Morrow
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Tink, tink, tink, tink, sang cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe's dress.

Jenna's heart beats to the brum, brum, brum, brum of the powwow drum as she daydreams about the clinking song of her grandma's jingle dancing.

Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem—how will her dress sing if it has no jingles?

The warm, evocative watercolors of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu complement author Cynthia Leitich Smith's lyrical text as she tells the affirming story of how a contemporary Native American girl turns to her family and community to help her dance find a voice.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a sweet little story about a young girl named Jenna who wants to participate in jingle dancing. But her dress has no jingles. Using creativity, respect, and the love of her community, she comes up with a way to solve the problem and become the dancer she always wanted to be.

The note at the end offers a little more information on the background of the character portrayed in the story, and talks a bit about how the story is structured. Four is an important number in some Indigenous traditions (unlike the emphasis on three that we often see in European-styled stories); as Jenna works her way among her friends and family, looking for ways to make her dress sing, we see that number in action: she must ask four people for help, her dress needs four rows of jingles, etc.

The illustrations here are lovely, if a little dated. Jenna's everyday clothes kind of scream late '90s, which is a shame. Taken as historical fiction, though, it could work better. (Why did we insist on wearing our t-shirts three sizes too big back then?)

Overall, this is a lovely introduction to a tradition that many children might not be familiar with. I didn't know anything about jingle dancing, either, so this book helped broaden my knowledge a little, too. The star of the show, though, are those illustrations. The facial expressions and soft colour palette make the book so appealing to look at. Jenna herself, her hopes and dreams, her family and friends, and her traditions are all brought to life in a pleasing way. I definitely recommend giving this one a look.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

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