Elephants Cannot Dance!

Citation: Willems, M. (2009). Elephants Cannot Elephants Cannot DanceDance! New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

Ages: 4 – 9

Grades: PreK – 2

Description:  In Elephants Cannot Dance! Piggie tries to teach Gerald how to dance.  Gerald is convinced that Elephants cannot dance, while Piggie is not. Gerald eventually tries to dance, and ends up doing the opposite of what Piggie instructs.

Uses:  Elephants Cannot Dance! is one of Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books that are ideal for beginning readers.  The book features Willems’ characteristic sparse images and text bubbles to tell the story.  Because the story is told through Elephant and Piggie speaking to each other, it is not the best choice for a traditional read-aloud during storytime. However, the plot would lend itself well to a storytime puppet show. Librarians and teachers can act out the story, and then invite children to dance. Librarians can even use the elephant prop as a way to engage students: librarians can instruct children to show elephant their best dance moves, or to teach elephant how to dance.  The book is also ideal for display because of the familiarity of Willems’ works. Familiarity with Willems’ works and style of writing will lead parents and children to be more comfortable checking out the work, and reading the get moving message.

Review Sources:

Elephants Cannot Dance!. (2009). Publishers Weekly, 256(20), 55.

Smith, R.L. (2009). Elephants Cannot Dance!. Horn Book Magazine, 85(4), 433 – 434.

Search Terms: elephants, pigs, dance

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

Citation: Shea, Bob. (2015). Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. New York: Disney-Hyperion Ballet Cat

Ages: 5 – 9

Grades: Kindergarten – 3

Description:  Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret is a beginning chapter book for early readers that tells the story of two best friends: Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony.  One day, Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are trying to find something to do. Sparkles suggests a number of activities such as selling lemonade, playing checkers or making crafts. Ballet Cat originally agrees to all of these activities, but changes her mind, in favor of ballet – the same thing they do everyday.  Sparkles agrees, but is obviously not happy about going through the ballet motions as they play. Ballet Cat notices that Sparkles is not happy, and Sparkles eventually tells her that he does not always like to play ballet. The friends learn the importance of being honest that that it’s okay to disagree.

Uses: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret is an early chapter book for young readers. While the story could be read during storytime, it is most suited for reading with a small group of early elementary students; perhaps a 2nd grade book club.  The students and librarians can read through the book, and discuss the importance of being an individual, and that it is okay to like different things. Librarians can use this book and discussion as a catalyst for each student to demonstrate and show their favorite activity, and for the whole group to join along. Each student can teach the group their favorite activity: ballet, jumping, running, etc, for a movement filled young book club.

Review Sources:

Burg, R. (2015). Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. School Library Journal, 61(5), 94.

The Totally Secret Secret. (2015). Kirkus Reviews, 83(6), 201.

Tags:  animals, book-club books, ballet, friendship