“Annie, a young Alaskan Yup'ik Eskimo, is excited to attend this year’s potlatch, where she will perform her first dance. In the tradition of her ancestors (and with the help of her family), she has worked hard to prepare for this official coming-of-age ceremony. Sad that Grandmother is no longer alive to watch her and nervous that she make a mistake, Annie begins her ceremonial dance on the new silver sealskin that her father has prepared. Her dance, which tells the story of a walrus hunt, is a tremendous success. The story and pictures mesh nicely and are filled with many details of local color, absorbed during the years the author and illustrator taught in Yup'ik villages. Sloat’s colorful drawings are particularly effective in showing the mix of modern and traditional elements in the Yup'ik culture. . . . it will make a welcome addition to Arctic and Eskimo units.Booklist
“Young Annie formally joins her Yup'ik community by performing her first traditional dance during a gathering of the villagers, in a tale based on Winslow and Sloat’s experiences as teachers along the Yukon River and the Bering Sea.
As Annie nervously watches other dancers and remembers her recently passed grandmother Olga’s instruction, readers will get a perceptive, unselfconscious look at how new and old commingle in modern potlatch; musicians pounding skin drums wear jeans and T-shirts, smiling faces sport eyeglasses, dancers in work shirts wave lovely fur and feather fans. The dances commemorate hunts, and in Sloat’s lively full-page and three-quarter-spread paintings the animals themselves seem to rise up and join the action. At last it’s Annie’s turn, and as she dances a walrus hunt on a silver sealskin (which she later gives to a baby for her “First Dance”), Olga’s figure silently joins the group. Afterward, Annie’s father offers everyone mittens, dishtowels, fish traps, ax handles, candy, gum, and akutaq (Eskimo ice cream). Potlatch customs may differ from place to place, as the authors properly point out in a prefatory note, but the feeling behind them is universal, and come through clearly here.”Kirkus Reviews
“A story that captures the importance of dance as an active expression of the Yup'ik Eskimo culture, and the significance of passing on traditions from one generation to the next. Annie is nervous, for she is about to perform her “first dance,” a coming-of-age rite. The richly descriptive written images simply but insightfully reflect the importance of village traditions and strong family connections, and graphically portray Annie’s worry and pride as she prepares for and performs her dance. The pencil and watercolor illustrations fill various parts of each single- and double-page spread, leaving plenty of white space for the clearly readable, well-spaced text. Authentically drawn colorful qaspegs, fur parkies, seal-skin mukluks, grass and wooden dance fans, walrus-skin drums, and Annie’s fur headdress and wolverine belt realistically depict the Native clothing and dance regalia. The northern lights reaching down to earth to carry Grandmother off to be with her ancestors create a visual representation of the spiritual world. This book, like the songs and dances performed at a potlatch to convey oral history, combines powerful writing and vivid illustrations to capture the joy of giving and sharing among the Yup'ik Eskimos.”School Library Journal
“Barbara Winslow’s writing creates a magical air while the authentic color and detail of Teri Sloat’s illustrations bring the Yup'ik potlatch alive for young readers. DANCE ON A SEALSKIN is entertaining while also teaching children something of the Yup'ik cultureof the significant role dancing plays as a means of conveying stories to the next generation, and of the importance of family and community. . . ."Peninsula Clarion (Kenai, Alaska)