The Last Dance

The Last Dance

by Carmen Agra Deedy, Debrah Santini

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite the precious life lessons knit into the story line (``Every human being has a right to three things: to dance... to sing... to tell stories''), Deedy's fluid prose and flair for imagery ("the moon sat full-bellied on the treetops") turns a potentially trite story into a sweet, sentimental one. Childhood sweethearts Ninny and Bessie make a pact that when one of them dies, the other will come to the graveyard and dance on the grave. The story spans a lifetime, from the young couple's early moonlight dances at Ninny's grandfather's grave through marriage, a war and a last anniversary. In the end, Bessie fulfills her promise and saves the last dance for her beloved Ninny. Santini's impressionistic watercolors, rendered in muted shades of rose, smoke blue, and browns, effectively capture the bittersweet mood of the story. A note: although the subject may be more likely to appeal to beginning readers, the text-set in a decorative scriptface-is a visual stumbling block. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-6-Two children promise that if one dies, the other will dance on the departed's grave. In prose laden with imagery, Bessie tells of her friendship with the tailor's son, Ninny, who summons her to join him on nighttime graveyard forays by pelting her window with buttons. Their friendship turns into a long, loving marriage through World War II and beyond. On their anniversary, the elderly couple dance and recall their childhood vow. The final page depicts Bessie dancing barefoot near her beloved's grave. Throughout, readers are reminded that life goes on, and that deceased loved ones are kept alive via memories and stories. Santini's flowing pastel watercolors are cluttered with buttons and blanket-stitched, parchmentlike backgrounds. While the fluid art suits the storyteller's lilting voice, the illustrator nearly overwhelms the pages with ghostly penciled images, movement, and distracting decorations. Best shared in small groups or read individually, this tale has a somber mood underlying the joy and love. Alice Schertle's Maisie (Lothrop, 1995) follows a woman's life without reminding readers that death waits at the end of all life stories.-Susan Hepler, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA
Janice Del Negro
In this picture book for older readers, Ninny summons Bessie to dance in the moonlight near grandfather Oppa's grave because "anyplace that Oppa sleeps is a good place." The children grow to adulthood and marry, and Ninny is sent to war. After the Normandy invasion, Bessie waits for word of Ninny. He returns safely, and the two grow old together, dancing, until Bessie's final words: "Any place my Ninny sleeps is a good place." Deedy lovingly lulls readers into the intimacy of the reminiscence, using Bessie's voice to tell what is essentially a family story. Santini's watercolors, sometimes vague, mostly dreamy, enhance the feeling of events recalled through time. Her gravestones look like plump old folks, hands on hips, standing in rosy moonlight. Use this with older readers as a fine example of what family history can be. It's like a full cloth made from the remnants of people's lives, with all the humor, pathos, and drama that's necessary for a very effective, personal sort of storytelling.

Product Details

Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.02(w) x 12.38(h) x 0.38(d)
AD580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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