Abby and I were talking recently about the growth of performance as a theme in kid lit. There have been a ton of books exploring different forms of artistic expression in the last few years, and we thought it would be neat to highlight some of these books. It’s our hope these’ll offer ideas for book lists, displays, and maybe even a few holiday gift purchases. I’m tackling young adult titles, and you can hop over to Abby’s blog today and get a peek at picture books and middle grade titles.
Note these lists are in no way inclusive, and we’d love any other suggestions you have. All descriptions are via Worldcat.
When pulling together the titles, I noticed there are definitely holes in this area. Are there any recent titles featuring a male lead dancer? What about hip hop dancers? Jazz? The ones here are a nice mix of contemporary and historical novels.
Strings Attached by Judy Blundell: When she drops out of school and struggles to start a career on Broadway in the fall of 1950, seventeen-year-old Kit Corrigan accepts help from an old family friend, a lawyer said to have ties with the mob, who then asks her to do some favors for him.
Bunheads by Sophie Flack: Hannah Ward, nineteen, revels in the competition, intense rehearsals, and dazzling performances that come with being a member of Manhattan Ballet Company’s corps de ballet, but after meeting handsome musician Jacob she begins to realize there could be more to her life.
dancergirl by Carol Tanzman: A friend posted a video of me dancing online and now I’m now longer Alicia Ruffino. I’m dancergirl—and suddenly it’s like me against the world—everyone’s got opinions. My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he’s acting weird. And some stranger isn’t content to just watch anymore. Ali, dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you’ve seen me online, I’ve trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life. (Description via Goodreads)
Leap by Jodi Lundgren: Having just turned 15 and gone through her parents’ divorce, Natalie and her best friend Sasha are going to be practicing with their dance team all summer, but her friendship with Sasha goes on the rock, and her relationship with her boyfriend Kevin who is Sasha’s brother goes too far. Will she be taking on all these changes with confidence?
Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe: When sixteen-year-old Sara, from a small Vermont town, wins a scholarship to study ballet in New Jersey, her ambivalence about her future increases even as her dancing improves.
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher: In 1940s Chicago, fifteen-year-old Ruby hopes to escape poverty by becoming a taxi dancer in a nightclub, but the work has unforeseen dangers and hiding the truth from her family and friends becomes increasingly difficult.
When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer: Soledad Reyes decides to dance Carmen as part of a drum and bugle corps competition, not knowing if it will help or harm her chance of becoming a professional ballet dancer but eager to pursue new options, including a romance with the boy who invited her to audition. Reviewed here.
This category has so many titles to pick from, though again, I find it’s heavy on female leads. I’ve included music in a variety of forms. I’d be interested in hearing more recent titles featuring male leads, non-traditional music, or other facets within music.
Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft: As Seattle sixteen-year-old Jonathan helps a dying man come to terms with a tragic event he experienced during World War II, Jonathan begins facing his own demons, especially the death of his twin brother, helped by an assortment of friends, old and new. Reviewed here.
Amplified by Tara Kelly: When privileged seventeen-year-old Jasmine Kiss gets kicked out of her house by her father, she takes what is left of her meager savings and flees to Santa Cruz, California, to pursue her dream of becoming a rock musician. Reviewed here.
A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: One Australian summer, two very different sixteen-year-old girls–Charlie, a talented but shy musician, and Rose, a confident student longing to escape her tiny town–are drawn into an unexpected friendship, as told in their alternating voices. Reviewed here.
Rival by Sara Bennett-Wealer: Two high school rivals compete in a prestigious singing competition while reflecting on the events that turned them from close friends to enemies the year before. Reviewed here.
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez: Just before the most important violin competition of her career, seventeen-year-old violin prodigy Carmen faces critical decisions about her anti-anxiety drug addiction, her controlling mother, and a potential romance with her most talented rival.
Notes From an Accidental Band Geek by Erin Dionne: French horn virtuoso Elsie Wyatt resents having to join her high school’s marching band playing a mellophone, but finally finds a sense of belonging that transcends the pressure she has always felt to be as good as her father, principal french horn player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: Eighteen-year-old Piper becomes the manager for her classmates’ popular rock band, called Dumb, giving her the chance to prove her capabilities to her parents and others, if only she can get the band members to get along. Reviewed here.
Rock Star Superstar by Blake Nelson: When Pete, a talented bass player, moves from playing in the high school jazz band to playing in a popular rock group, he finds the experience exhilarating even as his new fame jeopardizes his relationship with girlfriend Margaret.
Glitz by Philana Marie Boles: Sixteen-year-old orphan Ann Michelle runs away from her grandmother’s house in Toledo, Ohio, with a new friend who is intent on seeking her own fame while the teenagers follow a hip-hop musician to New York City.
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (series): Seventeen-year-old Bertie strives to save Theater Illuminata, the only home she has ever known, but is hindered by the Players who magically live on there, especially Ariel, who is willing to destroy the Book at the center of the magic in order to escape into the outside world.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green: When two teens, one gay and one straight, meet accidentally and discover that they share the same name, their lives become intertwined as one begins dating the other’s best friend, who produces a play revealing his relationship with them both. Reviewed here.
Dramarama by E Lockhart: Spending their summer at Wildewood Academy, an elite boarding school for the performing arts, tests the bond between teens Sadye and her best friend Demi.
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison: Self-conscious about her knobby knees but confident in her acting ability, fourteen-year-old Tallulah spends the summer at a Yorkshire performing arts camp that, she is surprised to learn, is for girls only.
My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff: While working backstage on a high school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” sixteen-year-old Adam develops feelings for a beautiful actress–which violates an unwritten code–and begins to overcome the grief that has controlled him since his father’s death nearly two years earlier.
Carter Finally Gets it by Brent Crawford (series): Awkward freshman Will Carter endures many painful moments during his first year of high school before realizing that nothing good comes easily, focus is everything, and the payoff is usually incredible.