________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 21 . . . . February 2, 2018


Slip Jig Summer. (Orca Limelights).

Elizabeth J. M. Walker.
Victoria, BC: Orca, March, 2018.
122 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1743-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1744-9 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1745-6 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"Good job!" Anna said as she turned off the music. "Thomas, will you take Natalie out and teach her sevens? Everyone else, pair up for your reels!"

The boy with the floppy hair smiled at me again. He seemed like he was around the same age as me or maybe a year older.

"I'm Thomas," he said. "C'mon, I'll teach you your first reel step."

I followed him out into the hall.

"Okay. Newbie basics!" Thomas said. "The first thing you do before starting any dance is stand in first position."

I watched as he arranged his feet into a familiar poition – his left toe was pointed to the left side and his right toe was pointed to the right, with his right heel touching his left toe. I put my feet in what I knew as ballet fifth.

"Great turn out!" he said.

I smiled and shrugged. Who knew Irish dancers turned their feet out just like ballet dancers?

Natalie thought her life was absolutely ruined when her mother sprang the news that her job was going to take her out of the city for the summer, that Natalie could not come with her (not that she wanted to!), and that instead she would have to go and stay with an aunt, uncle, and three girl cousins. In Windsor. All this was bad enough, but worse was that she wouldn't be going to ballet camp with her two best friends, and, in fact, wouldn't be dancing at all for the whole summer! For someone as ballet mad as Natalie, this turn of events was disastrous! Nothing to be done about it, however, and so off she went to stay with these unknown cousins.

      Imagine how surprised and delighted she was, therefore, when she found that the first thing on the programme the day after her arrival was a dance class to which she was invited. Surprised and delighted, that is, until she found out that it was Irish dancing, not ballet! However, she decided that any dancing was better than no dancing, and the cousins did have a full fledged dance studio in their basement where she could practice ballet properly as well! The icing on the cake was the cute boy who was delegated to teach her her first dance steps! She then found that Irish dancing was actually kind of fun as well as being a very good way of keeping in shape. Also there were competitions that she might be able to enter by the end of the summer. The only fly in the ointment was the nasty texts she was getting from her two friends at home.

      Slip Jig Summer is definitely a book for girls mad about dancing. It is assumed that the reader knows ballet nomenclature, the five positions, what a plié is, and so forth, and feels, or understands feeling, that basically nothing outside dance is actually worthwhile or even interesting. That one of the cousins is more interested in fish – Natalie's uncle runs a pet fish shop – than dancing, especially competitive dancing, does add a bit of balance to the situation, but otherwise I'm afraid the charm of the story is very focused. It is well enough written; Natalie is a pleasant 15 year old who doesn't decide to hate her mother just because her summer plans have been wiped out, and who actually seems to be grateful for the sacrifices her mother has made that allow her to do all this expensive stuff. The book just doesn't have much zing in either plot or character. Too bad. I did love the opening description of the end of year show for the ballet school – it gave a glimpse into what makes someone want to devote herself to such a life.

Recommended with Reservations.

A Winnipeg, MB, resident for parts of the year, Mary Thomas was never ballet mad, always having had two left feet, but she has a grand daughter who may be more appreciative of the book than she.

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