Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, December 22, 2014

Do What You Love

There are things we love to do with all our heart but no one knows about it.  We take every opportunity to do it as long as we are alone.  Despite the fact we practice and practice, we are not sure the world will share our same enthusiasm for a particular talent.

Our household pets may be privy to our gifts but our secret is safe with them.  In her newest title Birgitta Sif, author of Oliver, introduces readers to a girl who longs to listen to the song in her soul.  Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance (Walker Books, August 7, 2014, Candlewick Press, August 26, 2014) will leave you with the urge to start or continue to twirl and whirl whenever you get the chance.

Once there was a girl, whose name was Frances Dean.  She loved to dance and dance.

It was all she could do to sit still in her school classroom each day.  Without her even knowing it, her fingers might start gently rapping on her desk or her toes might start softly tapping on the floor.  When she finally got outside the wind would be her witness.  The birds would be her accompaniment.

She would dance and dance and dance as long as the feathered park residents were her only audience.  If any people walked by, Frances Dean would stop dancing.  She felt like everyone was watching her.  She felt like everyone was not as excited about her dancing as she was.

Her joy vanished.  Frances Dean danced no more.  Her friends, the birds, who really enjoyed seeing her swing and sway and leap and pirouette decided to take matters into their own hands...or...wings.  They lead her to another girl, much younger than her.  Soon Frances Dean was humming along to one of the loveliest songs she had ever heard.  This made Frances Dean start thinking as she lay in bed that night.

When she woke up Frances Dean noticed the wind, heard her flying park pals singing and remembered.  Her delight blossomed spreading outward to creatures and people along her path.  Following your dreams with happiness is contagious.

Each simple sentence written by Birgitta Sif takes readers into the lively world of Frances Dean.  It's as if we are experiencing each emotional belief along with her.  The kinship Frances Dean maintains with the birds and the wind shows us how in tune she is with the natural world.  Her gentle soul as portrayed by Sif is easy to love.  Here are two more sentences.

And when she was ready she let the wind move her.
And shyly she asked the birds, "Can I show you my dance?"

Opening up the book case readers see an illustration spread across the spine to the left.  Frances Dean is dancing wearing her button-down red coat with purple and white stripped socks and purple tennis shoes.  Her braided pig-tails are straight behind her as she dances.  Around her the birds watch and sing.  On a nearby park bench her cat sleeps with one eye open.  A radio (foreshadowing) is next to the cat.  The tiny details seen in this initial picture are prevalent throughout this title; the delicate flowers and tiny spotted mushrooms are examples.

Exquisite opening and closing endpapers in two shades of pale turquoise feature a tree trunk with seven branches spreading to the left and right of the center.  Each branch holds birds awake or sleeping in companionable fellowship.  Two squirrels are curled together resting.  The initial title page has a rabbit running across the bottom as birds fly left to right overhead.  The verso and title page make liberal use of white space highlighting the text, Frances Dean looking upward at a bird perched on the "e" in her name.  Her cat peers from behind a tree on the left.

The majority of the images cover two pages.  A muted color palette focusing on natural hues enhances Frances Dean's softhearted persona.  Fine lines add to the noticeable animation, the spirited feel, of each picture.  The park scenes with or without people are full of activity.

Sif places smaller images surrounded by white on nine of her pages.  These serve to focus on a specific point in the story.  Only two single page pictures appear in this title.  Some of the elements in these (as in all of them) will have readers smiling or laughing out loud.

One of my favorite illustrations (I love all of them) is of Frances Dean looking out her window in the morning noticing all the birds filling the branches of a nearby tree.  They have gathered to remind her of the joy she took in dancing.  The odd shape of her house is absolutely charming.  Her mailbox in the shape of a mail truck is as cheery as she is.  Two rabbits and a couple of roosters are watching.

If you are looking for happy inside of book covers, Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance written and illustrated by Birgitta Sif is the perfect choice for you and your readers.  This title shows readers how to keep their bliss and stay true to their heart.  Sometimes you might need a little help from your friends.

Please follow the link embedded in Birgitta Sif's name to access her website.  Another beautiful illustration from this book is featured on the home page.  These links here and here are the publisher's websites. Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance appears on the long list for The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Nominations for 2015.


  1. So glad you've written about Frances Dean. I just loved that book.

    1. Thank you Rebecca. I am in love with Birgitta Sif's books.