Just Dance by Patricia MacLachlan (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
MacLachlan, Patricia Just Dance. McElderry, 2017 [128p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7252-4 $15.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7254-8 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 2-4

Despite her mother’s insistence that she loves her life on their Nebraska farm, fourth-grader Sylvie believes that she and her brother are the only reasons their mom hasn’t returned to her former career as a famous opera singer. Living in their small town can’t possibly be as exciting as traveling the globe, and chickens and goats are not particularly great audiences. Then a gig with the local paper writing about town events has Sylvie looking at her town differently, and she realizes that while excitement has its place, so do familiar faces and the comforts of home. This is a standardly whimsical look at small town life, with unsurprisingly kind and quirky characters, but it’s also a recognition that people find fulfillment in all different types of places and can manage to revel in their present that’s very different from their past. Sylvie is a sweet kid whose narration volleys between curious and suspicious, and MacLachlan makes clear that her yearning for life beyond home isn’t a bad thing. That’s what makes the book’s ending so disappointing, with Sylvie’s sudden belief in her own lifelong contentedness in her town going completely against her character, turning a thoughtful book into a treacly one. Like Sylvie’s town, though, this story is cozy and quiet, and it’s suitable for reading under a shady tree with the music of crickets and the hum of nature nearby.

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