First, let’s be clear – this writer loves giraffes! Perhaps because we have height in common, or their graceful gate as they trim the trees or gallop across the plain, or their quiet and observing manner. Whatever the reason, they are amazing creatures.
In Giraffes Can’t Dance we are welcomed into the ‘secret’ world of the animal kingdom where the animals gather to party in forest. Naturally, its a dance party! Waltzing Warthogs and Cha-cha-ing Chimps are among the many getting their groove on and when it is Geralds’ (the giraffe) turn, his clumsiness is found to be entirely hysterical. A new friend helps Gerald to find his groove to his own unique music and teaches the reader that everyone CAN dance!
The text is rhythmical and precise. the colours are bold and beautiful, and the drawings are beautiful and have a movement all their own.
Recently I shared this book with a group of boys who happen to be a part of an Autism [ASD] group. I hesitated to read the book as they are a bit older and are just at that stage where they might think its too ‘babyish’ for them. To my surprise, they were captivated by the drawings of the animals, enjoyed the rhythmical flow of the text, and excited by the notion that Gerald found when his own way to groove in the forest. We then listened to three different pieces of music, all with different qualities, and explored how we would move to that particular piece. The result?
Absolute Magic. Even the student who usually shies away from exploring movement found his own groove in that class.
Encouraging curiosity and respect for differences!
One thing Steve Jenkins and Robin Page know for sure about children – they LOVE animals!
Through the lens of animal bodies the authors challenge us to look at familiar animals from a new perspective, and discover the characteristics of less known animals (like Archer Fish and Moles). ‘Discovery’ pages present body parts of various animals (eyes, ears, tails, etc.) which is then followed by the reveal of each animal and a description of how that particular animal uses that body part (did you know that the Horned Lizard can shoot blood from its EYES?). The textural, colourful artwork and animal trivia is enjoyed by all children (and adults!).
At the back of the book there is a description of each animal presented in the book, so curious minds can learn more about these wonderful, and silly, creatures! Providing teachers and children a brief description of these animals (without having to do any immediate research), but also helps to fulfill and encourage our curiosity for the animal world.
As a teaching tool this book a great introduction to leading with different body parts, encouraging children to incorporate the actions of the animals as well. Thinking about parts of animals can also be a stepping-stone to helping children consider how we use our bodies, and to explore how we can move different body parts, or create new ways to move our bodies (like a Platypus! Like a Mole! Move like a Blue-Footed Booby!). And it must be said that some of the names of the animals incites much giggling as well (how can you not giggle when you hear ‘Blue-Footed Booby!’).
What I love most about this text is that it offers children (and adults) a different lens through which to view and appreciate the animal world, encouraging all readers to be curious about differences, and respect individuality.
May we all find the time to stop and dance – like a Blue Footed Booby!
Robbie Woliver’s (2009) Alphabet Kids: From ADD to Zellweger Syndrome, A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals is a practical guide to the many disorders and syndromes diagnosed in children today. Alphabet Kids walks us through multiple syndromes and disorders (from A t0 Z), providing us with situational examples and lists of common signs and symptoms. Offering several perspectives of supporting research, each disorder/syndrome is its own chapter beginning with terms used in the chapter, symptoms, causes, general diagnosis and treatment, and finally general prognosis. References are included at the end of each chapter, providing the reader with a starting point for personal research.
With one in six children often being diagnosed with multiple, interconnected neurobiological, developmental, and genetic illnesses, dance teachers are wise to seek out knowledge regarding these syndromes and disorders. This resource provides practical and useful information with which to facilitate communication between teacher and parent, encouraging a deeper understanding of behavior, to foster best teaching practices and cues. As dance teachers our role is to understand any diagnosed conditions/syndromes of our students and to work with parents to find best ways to ensure success for the student. Having a text such as Alphabet Kids in your library provides detailed information, written for the non-medical community (the layperson), and a place to begin your education with these syndromes and conditions.