Cover of The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories by Jane Yolen and Heidi E Y Stemple

Barefoot Book of Dance Stories, the

A follow up, in a way, to our book of ballet stories for the same publisher. Heidi and I worked separately at first–me retelling the stories, she doing the information part. Then we each edited the other’s work. Finally we each read the entire thing for flow, discussed the problems we found, and then satisfied at that draft, sent it on to Barefoot.

Of course Barefoot wanted changes. I had to fight to keep in the Scottish “Tam O’Shanter” story. But all’s well that ends with a beautiful book.


  • BAREFOOT BOOK OF DANCE STORIES won a Silver IPPY Award for Children’s Picture Book All Ages from the Independent Publishers Association
  • …and a Silver IPPY from the Indpendent Booksellers, as well

Around the web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “Cann’s textile patterns, ornamental lines, and watercolor washes complement the vibrant stories, which are refreshingly free of prescribed morals.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “Anansi, witches, gods, goddesses, and fairies inhabit these adventurous, mysterious, and fanciful stories that capture the magical power of dance…With all the recent popularity of dance, these ageless tales may get readers ‘moving to the beat.’ ”—School Library Journal
  • “This beautiful anthology of dance stories from around the world will delight and enchant young dancers. . . . Information in the back of the book includes information on the dance, costume, and step-by-step instructions on how to do the dance. There is also a CD of the stories read by stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson. A treasure for all dancers.”—Kids
  • “Magic intermingles with movement in nearly every story here, as Yolen and Stemple celebrate the powerful and often mystical charms of dance. Drawing on folklore from all over the world, from the well known (Germany’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”) to the lesser so (Egypt’s “When the Goddess Danced”), each story features a different dancing style. Themes vary, but the tales feature some recurrent characters. And though the stories end on happy notes, there are some menacing figures along the way, especially the bright-red, horned-and-hoofed creature from “Tam O’Shanter.” Cann’s watercolor-and- mixed-media illustrations pay vibrant tribute to each setting and culture. . . Along with a story CD read beguilingly by Juliet Stevenson, the book contains a bibliography and brief endnotes about the style and steps of each dance.”—Booklist
  • “Princesses, birds celestial and enchanted, trickster gods…birch fairies, goddesses and witches from Europe, the British Isles, Japan, Africa, the West Indies and ancient Egypt all dance in this attractive collection of eight tales. They perform waltzes, polkas and reels, the limbo, flamenco and belly dancing, stylized Noh and Malian funeral ceremonial dancing…The accompanying CD, read beautifully by British actress Juliet Stevenson, has a brief musical introduction to each story that helps set the mood. The watercolor illustrations swirl about in appropriately Terpsichorean fashion… Step lively!”—Kirkus
  • “The illustrations are beautiful and it tells dance stories from eight different cultures around the world. My sister teaches dance and my niece is following right in her footsteps. I agree that this makes a great gift and I will be giving it to my sister and niece for Christmas. I know they will love it!”—
  • “This title should be a hit with dance lovers, especially since it offers introductory materials to other dance styles not usually found in children’s books and ties them to stories from their respective cultures. The book essentially offers four different areas of information for readers. First, the table of contents is expanded with short introductions to the tales and the dances. Here’s the table of contents without the glosses.1. Waltz / Germany / Twelve Dancing Princessses
    2. Noh Dancing / Japan / Robe of Feathers
    3. Limbo / St. Vincent, West Indies / Making the Stone Smoke
    4. Flamenco / Spain / The Shepherd’s Flute
    5. Polka / Czech Republic / Dancing with the Birch Fairy
    6. Belly Dancing / Egypt / When the Goddess Danced
    7. Scottish Reels / Scotland / Tam O’Shanter
    8. Malian Dance / Mali / The Little Bird Who Went Dancing

    Then the tales are presented with beautiful illustrations, all retold by Yolen and Stemple.

    Next there are Notes on the Dances with brief information about the dance, the usual costumes and the dance steps…

    Finally, a bibliography is offered with a minimum of eight sources for each tale and accompanying dance. (Full disclosure: SurLaLune is listed as a resource for Twelve Dancing Princesses.)In addition to the book, there is the CD of the tales read by Juliet Stevenson, which is a nice bonus for anyone, but especially nice for young dance lovers not quite up to the 8 and up reading level of the book.

    Overall, highly recommended for dance and folklore lovers, young or old. Jane and her daughter Heidi always retell the stories beautifully, presenting them to a modern audience. The illustrations are lovely and the bonus CD provides additional ways to enjoy the content.”—SurLaLune blog

  • “Visit Germany, Japan, the West Indies, Spain, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Scotland, and Mali, and read about their dances, how to perform them, and what to wear. Eight stories to read aloud and to tell are the perfect accompaniment. Watercolor and mixed-media art decorate the pages and embellish the costumes. Juliet Stevenson reads the accompanying CD.”–School Library Journal