House of Dance

House of Dance

4.3 3
by Beth Kephart

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Rosie and her mother coexist in the same house as near strangers. Since Rosie's father abandoned them years ago, her mother has accomplished her own disappearing act, spending more time with her boss than with Rosie. Now faced with losing her grandfather too, Rosie begins to visit him every day, traveling across town to his house, where she helps him place the

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Rosie and her mother coexist in the same house as near strangers. Since Rosie's father abandoned them years ago, her mother has accomplished her own disappearing act, spending more time with her boss than with Rosie. Now faced with losing her grandfather too, Rosie begins to visit him every day, traveling across town to his house, where she helps him place the things that matter most to him "In Trust." As Rosie learns her grandfather's story, she discovers the role music and motion have played in it. But like colors, memories fade. When Rosie stumbles into the House of Dance, she finally finds a way to restore the source of her grandfather's greatest joy.

Eloquently told, National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart's House of Dance is a powerful celebration of life and the people we love who make it worthwhile.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Distinguished more by its sharp, eloquent prose than by its plot, Kephart's (Undercover) second YA novel probes the fear of loss by introducing a heroine who overcomes it. Abandoned by her father years ago, emotionally distant from her mother, who is caught up in an affair with her married boss, 15-year-old Rosie spends much of the summer before junior year with her terminally ill, widower grandfather, helping him sort through his belongings, all of them stuffed with mementos. As his health rapidly declines, Rosie realizes: "You cannot buy a man who is dying a single meaningful thing. You can only give him back the life he loved and awaken the memories." Determined to retrieve the time her grandfather misses most, when music filled the evenings and he could watch his wife dance, Rosie sets about throwing a dance party at her grandfather's house. Poetically expressed memories and moving dialogue both anchor and amplify the characters' emotions. Ages 12-up. (June)

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KLIATT - Myrna Marler
This novel is for young people dealing with the loss of loved ones, whether through death or disappointment. Fifteen-year-old Rosie is lonely. Her father has abandoned the family. Her mother is involved with a married man, and now her mother tells Rosie her grandfather is dying. Even though Rosie's mother and grandfather have not spoken for several years, Rosie's mother asks her to visit her grandfather every day over the summer and help him. Rosie's best friend is away for the summer and her almost-boyfriend is busy working for his father, so every day Rosie goes over to grandfather's house and helps him sort through a mountain of accumulated possessions. They go into piles: "in trust," "decide later," and "toss." Over the summer, Rosie learns of her grandfather's regrets, all the places he didn't travel to with his now-dead wife because he was saving a nest egg for the future. She learns that he wanted to visit Barcelona, Madrid, and other places filled with color and movement, and that her grandmother loved to dance. Near her grandfather's home is a dance studio, and Rosie, who has saved all the money her father has ever sent her, decides to take lessons and give her grandfather a going-away party and a gift of dance that will remind him of his dreams and the color of life. At the same time, Rosie is giving herself the gift of color, and love, and forgiveness. Beautifully and subtly written, full of vivid imagery and close observation, this book confronts the issue of how to live life when we know we're going to die. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
VOYA - Amy S. Pattee
Kephart's second novel for young adults is a quiet tome laden with metaphor and description. Set in the summer between Rosie's ninth and tenth grade years and narrated in the first person, the book describes Rosie's daily visits to her dying grandfather during which she helps him straighten out his possessions, deciding which of his large collection of books, records, and papers to throw away or keep "in trust." During these visits, Rosie's grandfather reminisces about his departed wife, who loved to dance and would "fox-trot in circles, with the moon as her man." This memory inspires Rosie to sign up for dance classes at the House of Dance, where she hopes to bring the spirit of her dead grandmother back to her grandfather by dancing for him at a party in his honor. Kephart infuses the narrative with thick description of the summer's heat and sudden thunderstorms, an attention to the natural world that appears to be a hallmark of her writing. The story itself is dilatory, and this pacing reflects Rosie's wish to slow the progression of her grandfather's disease. A decidedly literary offering, Kephart's novel is a restrained read that encourages its audience to linger over its pages. Reviewer: Amy S. Pattee
Children's Literature - Carly Reagan
A teenage girl reaches out to her dying grandfather, learning about his life and, in turn, her own. Told from the point of view of fifteen-year-old Rosie, a girl whose father has run off, and whose mother is distant and seemingly self-absorbed. With insights that are surprisingly and somewhat unrealistically adult, it can be somewhat difficult to fully relate to Rosie as a believable teenage girl who has such a difficult life. The supporting characters are interesting though underdeveloped, as there are many side stories, causing all to be glossed over and never fully explored. The title of the novel is derived from the name of a dance studio in Rosie's town, where she takes lessons in order to surprise her grandfather, theirs being the relationship in the book that does manage to be fully developed. Kephart's writing style is beautiful and elegant, with strong opening and closing lines to each chapter that can be quite poignant (even overly so, at times), and is pleasant to read. Though Rosie's relationships with everyone other than her grandfather seem unresolved, the love between a girl and her grandfather still makes for an interesting story with plenty of sweet and touching moments that warm the heart. Reviewer: Carly Reagan
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up- Rosie's grandfather is slowly dying. Rosie's mother, who has not spoken to the man in years, is in the throws of an affair with a creepy married man, leaving the teen to sort through her grandfather's possessions to decide what to keep and what to toss. As she wades through his belongings, she has glimpses into his life as a younger man; his fascination with travel; and his love of music, dancing, and his wife. Rosie begins to plan a party for him. She arranges special food, special costumes, and most importantly, she enrolls at the House of Dance so she will be able to ballroom dance at the party. Although the portrayal of intergenerational relationships tugs at the heartstrings, the plot is a bit slow, and the writing, while often fresh and lovely, in other places is convoluted or confusing, giving the novel limited teen appeal.-Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Kirkus Reviews
In the summer of her 15th year, Rosie Keith shakily prepares for the death of her beloved Granddad. With her brooding mom preoccupied by an ill-advised love affair, Rosie is left to tend to the sorting of her granddad's belongings and her own raw panic surrounding his impending demise. As the summer progresses, Rosie spends increasing amounts of time spinning her Granddad's old records, making peace with his nurse (who traffics far too heavily in realism for Rosie's liking) and taking dance lessons at a quirky studio. Like Kephart's first offering for young adults, Undercover (2007), what stands out in this introspective novel is the sheer loveliness of its prose-"She had the longest tail I'd ever seen on a cat and pointy espionage ears, and she was all possession and presumption, guarding Granddad, who was asleep on the couch." At once airy and languid, the sparse dialogue complements the lush descriptions of summer in the city. This is a beautifully told yet very quiet, small story. (Fiction. YA)
“... the piercing emotions and family situations, described with lyrical beauty, will hit home with readers who enjoy gentle, emotional journeys, such as Lynne Rae Perkins’ Newbery Medal–winner Criss Cross (1995)”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Library Edition
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

House of Dance

Chapter One

In the summer my mother grew zinnias in her window boxes and let fireflies hum through our back door. She kept basil alive in ruby-colored glasses and potatoes sprouting tentacles on the sills. On her bedroom ceiling she'd pressed glow-in-the-dark dots into constellation patterns, so that the stars, as she put it, would always be near. Andromeda. Aquarius. The major and minor Ursas. Pisces. Creatures with wings or with horns.

When I was younger, I'd lie beside her, with all those stars pressing in like tattoos. I'd listen for the wind through the trees, or a finch with a song, or music from the Burkeman house next door. "Not a word, Rosie," she would say. "Let the day be," and my thoughts would float until they drifted toward something that was fixed and sure. My mother cleaned windows for Mr. Paul. She spent her days looking through other people's worlds. In her own house, she said, she needed quiet to remember who she was.

"Not a word, Rosie. Not a single one." You could get a lot of thinking done when you were with my mother. You could ask yourself a million questions.

I was nine and ten and eleven and twelve. My dad, who had left us years before for what he called a scratchy itch, had never made it home. He sent me twenty dollars every week. Proof, he wrote in his notebook-paper scribbles, that he loved me still. I kept the cash in a shoe box in the bottom of my closet, behind a crate of used-up toys. Proof, I'd have said, if he had asked me, that love cannot be bought.

I was thirteen, I was fourteen, I was fifteen. My mother still cleaned windows, still left the house every day in her stainedoveralls, her cantaloupe-colored rubber gloves, her denim visor. Except that now she and Mr. Paul were what she called partners, and her days were that much longer, and there were no more potatoes with octopus tentacles on the sill. Sometimes Mom didn't get home until midnight. Sometimes she was, in the softest voice, singing. Sometimes she forgot that I was there at all, and that is why what happened happened. Because I had been put in charge of myself, and my grandfather was dying.

He didn't live far; he never had. He'd always been where he was, on the other side of the train tracks, on the opposite end of town, at the final step of a twenty-minute walk. You'd go down to the end of my street. You'd turn. You'd walk beneath the big stone railroad bridge, where there was wetness no matter what the temperature was, something like stalactites daggering down. You'd get back out into the windswept air and go up the hill and turn left onto the street of shops: Whiz Bang, the balloons and party favors store; the deli named Pastrami's; Sweet Loaves Bread; Mr. Harvey's Once-Read Books; Bloomer's Flowers; the hardware store that had become a discount drugstore that was now a sort of everything store, where the mannequins never changed the clothes they wore and the same rocking chair kept rocking.

It was all redbrick on either side, and above the ground-floor retail there were second-story rooms where people I never did see lived, hung their birdcages on curtain rods and umbrellas out their windows, left their happy birthday signs and colored streamers for months and months on end.

My grandfather lived at the edge of all that, in a house of six rooms and one attic, the first house past retail, he called it. When I was little, he would sit in a chair on his porch all summer, watching the cars and the bikes and the buses go by, reading his National Geographic magazines and expedition catalogs. My grandmother had died before I was born. I'd known him only as a man who said there had been places he might have gone, regrets that he'd got stuck with, times that had slipped away like sand. I'd known him only as my mother's father until the summer he got sick. "Rosie," my mom said, the night she told me, "he's going to need you now."

"What do you want me to do?"

"What you can, Rosie. Whatever you can."

My mother had long, dark hair. It was her shield, her protection. She turned her face and I couldn't see her eyes, and I could not for the life of me guess what it was she planned to do. "How sick, Mom?" I asked.

"Multiple myeloma, Rosie."

"What does that mean?"

She sighed, and it was a very sad sound. She looked away from me. "That he's tired. That he'd like to see you. That I need you to help him through this. Help me."

My mother was an only child like I was an only child. I stared at her black, silky profile. "I bet he'd like to see you, too," I said.

"Rosie," she said.

And I was quiet. Because of course I knew that they had had their falling-out, that they hadn't been speaking, not lately. Of course I knew. Still, he was dying. Still, she was letting their argument, or whatever it was, be bigger than the love she felt inside. That was how I saw it anyway.

Truth of it was that school had let out two weeks before, and I was still angling for a purpose. My best friend, Leisha, had gone off to the shore to play nanny to her cousins, who were three, four, and five and hot spikes of trouble. Nick Burkeman from next door was working at his father's shop, lying under cars all day and staring at their bellies, even though what he loved most was the great outdoors, something his father called useless. Everyone else I knew had gotten some kind of gainful employment—at the pool or the mall or the movie theater—or was prepping for the SATs with a tutor who came to breakfast. "Your tutor eats breakfast at your house?" I'd said to Rocco, in May, in disbelief. "Yeah," Rocco had answered, rolling his eyes. "Yeah. That's right. He does. Barks vocab words at me when I'm buttering my toast."

House of Dance. Copyright © by Beth Kephart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Beth Kephart was nominated for a National Book Award for her memoir A Slant of Sun. Her first novel for teens, Undercover, received four starred reviews and was named a Best Book by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and In 2005 Beth was awarded the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She has also written Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter; Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir; Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self; Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River; Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business; and House of Dance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

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House of Dance 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Rosie Keith is in for a long summer. Her friends are all scattered for the three months at various jobs and camps, and her mother is hardly ever home, preferring to spend time with her business partner, who is also the man she is having an affair with. So Rosie turns to her grandfather, who is dying of cancer.

During those long summer days, she helps Granddad clean through his multitudes of possessions, placing things to keep In Trust. It is on one of those day she discovers The House of Dance, and begins taking lessons there, hoping to put In Trust again a few of Granddad's long-ago memories before he is gone for good.

HOUSE OF DANCE is a distinct and intense look at Rosie's life, her losses, and how her family reacts to same. Kephart's words are lyrical and her incisive style propels the reader easily through the book. Her in-depth look at illness and foreshadowing of death are very realistic and heartfelt. You will find yourself relating easily to Rosie, and admiring her strength in this wonderfully crafted novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved House of Dance, definitely my kind of book. I love when there is dancing in a book, even if it has a small, understated part of the book like in this one. It's hard to describe but I enjoy the feel it gives the whole novel. The characters in House of Dance are all well developed, even the minor characters. Flashbacks to Rosie's childhood give a stronger sense of who these people are while they play less of a role during the summer season. The main focus of the novel is Rosie's relationship with her dying grandfather. I think anyone could relate to this by comparing it to a close relationship they have with a parent, aunt or someone else they're close to. But I felt it an especially touching story because I am close to my grandparents. The direct connection to the character made it all the more enjoyable and relatable for me. Overall House of Dance is a sweet, heart warming novel that I highly recommend. I definitely plan on reading Beth's other novel, Undercover which sounds completely charming.