Leonard doesn't dance by Frances Watts

cover image

Illus. by Judy Watson. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780733333040.
(Age: 4-8) Highly recommended. Themes: Birds, Dancing, Individuality, Friendship. From the creators of Goodnight, Mice! comes this charming tale about friendship and finding your own rhythm. Leonard likes to try anything, so when he sees an invitation to come dancing at the big beaky bird ball he approaches some of his bird friends to see if he can learn to dance. He tries the warble-warble waltz with the magpies, the do-si-do with the ducks and the caw-caw-can-can with the crows but he just can't seem to get anything right. Dejected, he gives up and isolates himself from his friends, refusing their invitations to dance. 'I'm never going to dance again' he declares. At the ball, Leonard is reaching for a cupcake when a line of ants begins to march all over him; before long he is squirming and wriggling, shimmying and twisting. 'Ants in his pants! It's a brand new dance!', someone shouts. Before long all of the creatures are doing the ants in the pants dance and Leonard is dancing his own dance.
The illustrations are perfection and this is a joy to read aloud. Children will love the ending, especially as they will be familiar with the phrase, and will have fun doing their own ants in the pants dance. It is also a good way to initiate a discussion about how it feels when you are not good at something you enjoy doing and how you just want to hide away. In addition, it highlights many positive friendship traits (inviting others to join you, being encouraging rather than critical and not leaving anyone behind).
Nicole Nelson