by Glen Strathy
Publication Date: July 7, 2011
With so many fantastical stories about wizards, vampires, fairies, and other beings written for the pre-YA Children’s Fiction market today, we sometimes forget that it is the simple, everyday stories that can have the ability to inspire kids more than the mystical. Sometimes reading a story based in reality- about their dreams and aspirations- is a way for them to understand the challenge can be worked past, and that their dream may be attainable. The onslaught of fantasy stories may teach morals and decision-making, but it does not allow a child to connect the characters to their life in way that says “Maybe I can do that.”
Glen Strathy provides us with a great story about an incredibly 12-year-old Jenny who wants to be a ballerina, but is too afraid to dance in front of people in Dancing on the Inside. Having just moved to a new town and new school, she no longer knows where she fits in. We follow Jenny through a year of attending ballet class and all the anxiety and fear that many of us (12 years old, or not) feel when embarking on something new. She wants to dance more than anything in the world, but her fear of doing so in front of people holds her back from her dream.
It is her fear, though, that leads her down a slightly different path that may ultimately be more satisfying than her original dream of dancing. With support from her new friend Ara, who is the complete opposite of Jenny, they realize that there are qualities in each of them from which the other can learn. When their new ballet instructor, Kat, becomes aware of a plan that the two are hatching, she also lends her support, realizing the talent and motivation in each of them.
Often, when a child expresses a new interest, adults are apt to brush it aside as being ‘a phase.’ Generally, they are right. However, Dancing on the Inside, is a story about allowing children to explore their interests- even if they don’t last- because they may learn something new about themselves along the way. It is about understanding and letting children know that it is alright to have dreams and to explore them, and that it is alright if the interest passes. We often forget that children do not already know who they are and they need to explore the world to figure it out. Jenny and Ara remind us of how tough, emotionally, it can be for kids to face their fears.
Strathy not only gives us an inspirational story about fulfilling childhood dreams, but explores the anxiety and fear that can come with that exploration. Jenny not only proves to herself, but to her friends and family as well, that her goals are attainable, even if those goals change along the way. Dancing on the Inside gives us a great story about achieving goals and learning about oneself through hard work, focus, and dedication. It is a refreshingly realistic, simple and relatable story amidst so much fantasy that children are given today. It is a great reminder about the time in our lives that adults often see as simple, is the most difficult when you are going through it.
This book is available to purchase on Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.
For more about Glen Strathy, visit his website.
[This review is also published at LL Book Review]