2005-12-07 / Book Review

‘The Whole World Is Dancing’ Is Folk Dance Introduction

Book Review

The Whole World Is Dancing

Marble House Editions Rego Park

32 pp.


By Diana Sanders

Published by Marble House Editions, The Whole World Is Dancing is a children’s book written and illustrated by Elizabeth Uhlig. Created for youngsters 8 to 12 years of age, the book teaches culture through the use of dance. Written in couplets, it gives a “round-the-world” journey to 28 different locations, showing traditional dances that help define each one. Examples include China, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Sweden, India, and the Western United States, among others.

The purpose of The Whole World Is Dancing is to shine some light on international folk dancing for young readers, which Uhlig considers to be “a much neglected topic.” The 32-page book not only includes little poems of each tradition, but also features full-page colored illustrations of the dances. There is also a section in the back devoted to the historical factors of each location.

With so much to learn in the 8 to 12 age range, children are not yet ready to read long novels, yet are far past the days of Dr Seuss. Therefore, writing for such a group can be a tricky task. With the use of the continuous and consistent metered rhymes, Uhlig ensured that the material will enter the minds of her readers. The rhymes flow, are easily read, and stay in the mind. Each has an interesting term, accessory, or rhyme scheme used that sets each of the cultural dances apart from one another. The use of large illustrations give a visual representation of what each dance looks like, and allows the children to familiarize themselves with it. The illustrations are hand painted, rather than digitally created and give more of a traditional theme that enhances the purpose of the book.

And while the little poems on each of the locations are simple rhythmic beats of four short lines that do not provide any historical information about each location’s culture, the ending of the book does justice to this by including a few pages on more detailed, factual information about each place and its culture. The section also examines the traditional costumes of the folkloric dances.

Exploring 28 locations adds 28 new facts that children will learn; however, the title, The Whole World Is Dancing, in a way needs to feature a few more locations to cover the “whole world.” While most of the locations in the book are entire countries, there are some, like Hawaii, that represent more regional traditions.

Queens, being the most ethnically diverse county in the world, undoubtedly includes all the cultures that the book features and many more. For that reason alone, it would have been more informative and educational to include other, maybe smaller, less publicly known places throughout the world that hold their own unique cultural dances. This would give the youngsters of today, and leaders of tomorrow a better understanding of not only the most known cultures of the world, but others as well. However, the Whole World Is Dancing provides an introduction to the culture of the 28 locations it covers that will engage young readers and encourage them to learn more. It deserves a place on gift lists for children in the age range for whom it was written.

This is Uhlig’s fourth book. Her past works include Memoir Writing and Illustrating for Children, Grandmother Mary , and Anna Pavlova, Jewel of the Ballet .

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