Review of Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing

Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing
by Deidre Havrelock; illus. by Aly McKnight
Primary    Abrams    40 pp.
2/24    9781419756672    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781647004002    $17.09

A young girl and her family eagerly prepare for and take part in the Jingle Dress dance, an Anishinaabe tradition established during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. Havrelock’s (Saddle Lake Cree Nation) straightforward text incorporates vivid sensory imagery (“buckles shine, beads glimmer”; “Mom’s warm fingers slide through my hair”) and realistic details (“Everyone gets a big shot of hair spray!”), and evokes both the contemporary and the traditional while capturing the narrator’s excitement. McKnight’s (Shoshone-Bannock) colorful watercolor and graphite illustrations focus on the family and the regalia, and include such details as the different colors of black in a girl’s braids; the variety of Indigenous people’s hair colors and textures; the jingles on dresses that sway so convincingly you can almost hear them; and a red handprint covering the mouth of a woman watching the dance, signifying her solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People. Back matter gives more information about this century-old ritual of healing and thanks, including its significance in the wake of COVID-19 with its devastating effect on Native communities. A moving portrayal of how Jingle Dress dancers “dance for those who can’t.”

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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