Silver Shoes series by Samantha-Ellen Bound
Random House Australia RRP: $15.99
As all our little people return to school this week, so will they be returning to sports, hobbies and pastimes. What will it be for your kids this year? Swimming classes on Saturday, junior rugby on Thursday nights and gymnastics twice a week in the lead up to comps? The schedule can be downright exhausting – and that’s just for the parents! So if dancing is on the cards for your youngsters this year, here’s an interesting new book series that might be worth throwing in the ballet bag for down time.
According to promotions for the Silver Shoes series, there are over four million young Australians participating in dance classes each year. It’s the second most popular sport for Australian kids! And those who take it seriously know that it’s not all sparkles and tutus – it’s hard work. Dance class can be fun, but can also be physically and mentally draining. Silver Shoes dance academy is no exception! There, we meet friends Ellie, Ashley, Riley and Paige. Each girl has a different favourite style of dance, and each has their own special set of ambitions, worries and family circumstances to negotiate. They put in long hours of training and face down ruthless competitors to pursue their love of dance. Each book in the series focuses on the journey of one of these friends.
At first glance, this all seems very seen-it-before, as there are many dance-based book series for girls on the market. But Silver Shoes does a few things quite differently. Firstly, the lead characters are not always likeable. In fact, I found Eleanor – the star of the first book in the series, All That Jazz – a right little madam at first! She is ambitious, jealous, self centred and very quick to point out the flaws in other girls, even her ‘friends’. But as the book rolled on, I realised that this was actually quite a clever insight into a realistic emotional perspective for a 10 year old girl. Ellie IS talented, and rightly confident and determined to succeed. But we eventually find out that she has her own insecurities – in areas like friendship and audition nerves – just like everybody else. In the end, it’s quite a relief to read about a range of girls who are not always ‘nice’ and who make plenty of mistakes while they’re learning to navigate the social world.
This series also knows the junior dance scene. The lingo is all ‘acro’ and ‘axle jumps’, whilst the parents juggle the expenses and time commitments of their go-getting daughters. The ‘world’ of Silver Shoes will be very recognisable to young dancers (and their long suffering parents), which should mean that the emotional journeys have a greater impact than they might in a fictional fairyland. What’s more, each book includes a glossary of dance terms, instructions to copy one of the girls’ star moves and a bio of the lead character – including all the important questions like her favourite colour and food. This is all a way of encouraging identification with the characters and a desire to follow them through the series. Chances are there’ll be a girl just like you at Silver Shoes!
Samantha-Ellen Bound has been a dancer, teacher and choreographer as well as a writer, and it really shows. Her love of dance shines through the girls’ enthusiasm and passion, but she’s equally able to acknowledge the politics and pressure that comes with the fun. Ideal for 8-10(ish) dance-loving girls!
All That Jazz and Hit The Streets are out now, with 2 more books to follow in April. Happy reading (and dancing!).