________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 8. . . .October 28, 2016

cover

Across the Floor. (Orca Limelights).

Natasha Deen.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
138 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0920-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0921-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0922-2 (epub).

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Mary Harelkin Bishop.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

   

excerpt:

I nod, fake like I understand what he says and make a mental note to watch the kidsí feet when we do it again. Jesse and Brittney begin the second run-through, and I stand in the back, catching my breath and pretending I didnít pull something in my thigh trying to do the fan kick. But the muscleís pinging, and so is the toe I stubbed when I tried to do the ball change.

Peter continues, but it only gets worse. My entire knowledge of dance is the funky chicken and some lame thing my mom taught me called the Macarena. Iím so far behind the rest of the kids itís not even funny. And the worst part is that all the sports Iíve done arenít doing anything to help me keep up. Iíve never been this lost in anything involving physical movement. I canít help but wonder, If this is the first Ė and probably the easiest Ė class, how am I supposed to survive the rest of the sessions?

 

High schooler Luc Waldner lives for football. He has one more year in high school and is determined to be on the football team. Football is his life; that is until the last game of the season, when he falls on the final play of the game and causes the team to lose the championship. The coach demands that Luc take dance lessons to help with flexibility and to develop underused muscles. Itís dance classes for the summer, or Luc will not be allowed to play on the football team during the next school year.

     With a chip on his shoulder and lots of attitude, Luc reluctantly takes a contemporary dance class. During the very first class, he alienates himself from the other dancers, making enemies and also making a fool of himself. He begins to realize, very quickly, that dance is not as easy as it looks and requires skill, practice, endurance and grace. Luc has none of these qualities when it comes to dance, least of all grace. His movements are choppy and robotic, at best, and cause him humiliation. The dance instructor, Peter, is about as excited to have Luc in his class as Luc is to be there. He lets Luc know that he will not wait for Luc during instruction, and Luc is sure Peter is trying to get rid of him. Considering this a challenge, but also determined to stick with the class in order to play football, Luc begins to practice his dance moves at his summer job, mowing lawns, but also at home. It doesnít take long for Luc to feel physiological changes in his body, changes which he witnesses when he plays fun games of football with his friends.

     Through Luc, the reader explores the world of contemporary dance in a unique way, that being from the perspective of an athletic character. Lucís comparison of the muscles used in dance and football, the footwork and flexibility, help give the reader a good look at dance. Because the story is written in the first person, the reader is given a close look at the world of dance through a disgruntled football playerís eyes. Both Luc and the reader come to understand that these two activities require strength and endurance and hours of practice. Toward the end of the book, Luc slowly begins to think that maybe contemporary dance is becoming his first love and not football after all.

     Luc is a strong well-defined and realistic character. He is at times moody, somewhat arrogant, but likeable. He also grows and changes in the book. When he realizes that he has been rude and standoffish to the other dancers, he makes moves to develop genuine relationships with them. He also begins to respect them as the dancers and athletes they are.

     The plot revolves around Luc and dance lessons, with a little bit of Lucís home and work life thrown in, along with a few scenes of Luc and his football friends as well as his new dance friends. Although interesting, the plot is a little slow in places even though Luc and his father have arguments about Lucís commitment to work. Most of the action of the story takes place either in the dance studio or when Luc is practicing his dance steps. There are many long descriptions of the exact steps Luc is executing through his numerous dances. These descriptions got a little tedious to read and slowed the action of the story for this reader.

     Across the Floor is another title in the ďOrca LimelightsĒ series. The series publishes stories with performance themes which are written with simplified at-level vocabulary but with enough action and drama to keep the story interesting. Across the Floor fits this series and is a good read with a strong and interesting character who learns and grows from his mistakes.

Recommended.

Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of the ďTunnels of Moose Jaw AdventureĒ series published by Coteau. She has also published a biography about Canadian Paralympic Champion Colette Bourgonje, entitled Moving Forward and a picture book version called Ginaís Wheels. Currently she is an Instructional Consultant for Saskatoon (SK) Public Schools.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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