I love to dance! There is something deeply satisfying about moving in time to the music and expressing the emotion of a song through movement.
These fifteen dance picture books celebrate the joy of dancing, and I hope they inspire you and your young readers to get up and dance. At the end of the post are dance-themed coloring pages, crafts, and YouTube dance tutorials. The dance video sections for ballet, hip-hop, and tap have lessons and/or dances for every age from toddlers through 5th graders. The miscellaneous dance video section contains individual dances or dance routines that are appropriate for specific age groups.
No matter what style of dance you love, free style it and explore a new form. Break it down, hip and hop, tap your feet, clap your hands, and let the books move you to express yourself through dance!
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton has a rhyming text that is reminiscent of square-dance calling but with animal dancers and some animal movements.
Rap A Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles – Think of That! by Leo and Diane Dillon tells about a man who is always tap dancing. It shows him dancing through the streets, past people, and on stage. At the end of the book, the man’s name, Bojangles, is revealed. The final page has an afterward with historical information about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who was one of, if not the greatest, tap dancers of all time.
Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley has a rhyming text that tells the characters in the book to move different ways and make different types of faces and sounds. For added fun, you can have kids follow the directions along with the book’s characters.
Hip-Hop Lollipop by Susan Montanari is about a girl named Lollie who loves to dance hip-hop. Her parents tell her to stop dancing and go to bed, but Lollie keeps dancing. She dances with her sister; she dances while brushing her teeth; and when she’s finally in bed, Lollie dreams of dancing hip-hop.
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison is about having the rhythm. The book starts with the protagonist thinking the rhythm. Then she experiences the rhythm with her senses and starts to express it with different parts of her body. Finally, she is expressing the rhythm with her entire body and full-out dancing. The final line of the book (“I got the rhythm and you can too.”) encourages the reader to move and dance as well.
Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning is about a young girl who hears noises coming from the kitchen and together with her brother discovers that their parents are dancing and singing while cleaning up from dinner. When their parents catch them spying in the doorway, they bring their children into the kitchen, and the entire family sings and dances together. This book is a beautiful reminder that even the most mundane tasks can be used to bond as a family.
How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder is more or less the dance version of Green Eggs and Ham. The text is a conversation between an unseen voice and the protagonist, who claims that he doesn’t dance. As the unseen voice lists many of the ways that people dance, the illustrations show those movements, and the protagonist’s reaction to a lot of the dancing. The book ends with the protagonist finally revealing how he dances.
Zoogie Boogie Fever!: An Animal Dance Book by Sujean Rim reveals the secret as to why zoo animals always seem to be tired during zoo visiting hours: they spend the whole night dancing! A little red bird is the reader’s guide through a typical night of dancing at the zoo. Enjoy the book, but as the little bird reminds the reader, the dancing is a secret, so “Don’t. Tell. Anyone.”
Hilda Must Be Dancing? by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Suzanne Watts is about a hippopotamus named Hilda who loves to dance, but whose friends dislike her dancing because it is very loud and creates a mess in the jungle. Her friends suggest different hobbies for her to try instead of dancing, but Hilda doesn’t like any of them and keeps dancing. At last, they suggest a hobby that Hilda loves and is able to combine with dancing. The result is a quiet form of dance that does not create a mess, and that both Hilda and her friends can enjoy.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees is about a clumsy giraffe named Gerald. At the annual Jungle Dance, when Gerald steps onto the dance floor, the other animals make fun of him and tell him he can’t dance. When Gerald leaves, a cricket tells him that different people need different types of music and encourages Gerald to listen to the music in nature. Gerald does and finds that he can dance. He learns that everyone can dance if they find the right music.
Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer is about a girl named Mandy and her cat, Rupert. Mandy loves to dance for Rupert during the day, and Rupert loves to dance at night when Mandy is asleep. One night, Mandy wakes up and sees Rupert dancing. She is excited and tries to teach Rupert some of the moves she knows, but Rupert doesn’t want to take lessons and loses all interest in dancing. Mandy comes up with a plan to get Rupert to dance again, and the two of them start dancing together.
Dino-Dancing by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Barry Gott is about a dance competition between different dinosaur dance groups. Many different styles of dance are featured, and while some acts go smoothly, others don’t go as planned.
Dance With Me by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones is about a music box ballerina who loves to dance with the little girl who comes and dances with her every day. But when the little girl gets older and stops dancing with the ballerina, the ballerina leaves her music box in search of a new dance partner. Everyone the ballerina invites to dance with her says no, and the ballerina returns to her music box. For years, the music box is packed away, but one day, a new little girl opens the lid and invites the ballerina to dance with her.
Diana Dances by Luciano Lozano is about a girl named Diana who does not do well in school and who will fail her grade if she does not learn her multiplication tables. When hiring a tutor doesn’t help, Diana’s mother takes her to the doctor, who recommends that Diana see a psychologist. The psychologist determines that Diana is a dancer and tells her mother to enroll her in a dance class. Diana loves dancing and discovers that it is easier for her to focus when she is moving. Through finding her creative outlet in dance, Diana also unlocks her ability to master her multiplication tables.
PAR-TAY!: Dance of the Veggies (And Their Friends) by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Don Tate is about a dance party that the vegetables in the refrigerator throw while their humans are out of the house. Different vegetables, fruits, and dance styles are featured. At the back of the book is a section that explains what a vegetable is and that lists the vegetables and fruits that participate in the dance party.
I wanted to be clever and recommend twelve Christmas picture books, but there were so many good Christmas books for kids that it was impossible to narrow the list down to just twelve. So, since certain parts of Latin America have the Three Kings come on January 6th, and Christmas is the season of giving, Santa is bringing the twelve books of Christmas and the Three Kings are brining an additional three Christmas storybooks.
After each picture book description, I listed the numbers that correspond to the Christmas cards, decorations, Christmas tree ornaments, and sensory activities that best fit with that book.
I hope that you enjoy my recommended children’s books and Christmas crafts and sensory activities!
5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas by Jimmy Fallon is about a boy who is eagerly counting down the number of sleeps until Christmas. He wants to fall asleep so that Christmas morning will arrive sooner, but he is so excited that he does not think he can fall asleep. And each night, he does. (Cards 2, 3, 4, or 5 – tree; Decorations 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, or 11; Ornaments 1 – Santa, 3, 4, 7, or 8; Sensory 2, 3, or 4)
The Perfect Christmas Pageant by Joyce Meyer, illustrated by Mary Sullivan is about a hippo named Hayley who is in charge of the Christmas pageant. She wants it to be perfect, but things don’t go as planned. (Cards 1, 5 – angel, or 7; Decorations 1, 2, 5, or 6; Ornaments 1 – Nativity, 2, 11, 12, or 13; Sensory 1)
How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish is about a brother and sister who want to catch Santa and have some creative ways to do so. (Cards 2, 3, 4, or 5 – tree; Decorations 3, 4, 8, or 9; Ornaments 1 – Santa, 3, 4, 7, or 8; Sensory 2 or 3)
Aaron’s Secret Message by Marcus Pfister is a retelling of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay from the perspective of a boy named Aaron, who lives in Bethlehem and has been interested in the star that seems to be growing bigger and brighter every night. (Cards 7; Decorations 5 or 6; Ornaments 1 – Nativity, 11, 12, or 13; Sensory 1)
A Christmas Spider’s Miracle by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Stephen Costanza is about two mothers, one a peasant woman and one a spider, who want to provide for their children but have the odds stacked against them. When the woman brings in a small tree to try and give her children some Christmas cheer, the spider thanks her for saving her and her children from freezing by decorating the tree with her webs. (Cards 3 or 5 – tree; Decorations 3, 4, 10, or 11; Ornaments 3, 4, 9, or 10; Sensory 4)
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman is about a boy named José, his family, and their neighbors. It’s Christmas Eve, and almost everyone has something to be upset about. But when the small size of their family’s oven forces José and his father to take their roast to the pizzeria to be cooked, the miraculous happens. The smell of the roast causes everyone to become joyful and to find something to be thankful for. (Cards 2, 3, or 5 – tree; Decorations 3, 4, 10, or 11; Ornaments 1, 3, or 4; Sensory 4)
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, illustrated by Liz Bonham is about a lamb named Joshua who is left behind when the shepherd takes the flock to a new pasture because Joshua is unable to keep up. The bad leg that disqualified him from going to a new pasture kept him in the stable where he witnessed the birth of the Savior. This story shows that God has a special place for those who feel left out. (Cards 7; Decorations 5 or 6; Ornaments 1 – Nativity; Sensory 1)
The Tale of Baboushka: A Traditional Christmas Story by Elena Pasquali, illustrated by Lucia Mongioj is about an old woman who lives alone and loves to clean and sew. One night, the Wise Men stay with Baboushka and tell her about the King of Love who was born and to whom they are taking gifts. They invite Baboushka to join them, but she says she will come later because first she has to get her house in order. When she is finally ready with her handmade gifts, the Wise Men’s footsteps have disappeared and she can’t find the King of Love’s star. So, she travels around the world looking for the King of Love and leaving gifts for children along the way. (Cards 5 or 7; Decorations 5, 6, 10, 11, or 12; Ornaments 1 – Nativity, 11, 12, or 13; Sensory 1 or 4)
Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Barry Moser is about a girl named Ellie who makes three wishes one Christmas. She and her friend Billy Lee, who everyone says is imaginary, work to make the wishes come true. The result is the most magical and joyful Christmas Ellie has ever known. (Cards 1 or 5 – angel; Decorations 1, 2, 10, or 11; Ornaments 1 or 2; Sensory 4)
Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco is about a school custodian named Quintin and a bullied foster child named Welcome Comfort, who Quintin takes under his wing. At Christmas time, Quintin encourages Welcome to believe in Santa. Welcome, who hasn’t had the most joyful Christmases, tries to believe. That Christmas Eve, Santa finds him and takes him for the ride of his life. Welcome grows up believing his night with Santa was a wonderful dream, but as an adult he learns that his dream was more real than he could ever have imagined. (Cards 4; Decorations 8 or 9; Ornaments 1 – Santa, 7, or 8; Sensory 2 or 3)
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola is about a girl named Lucida whose mother is asked to weave a new blanket for the Figure of Baby Jesus. However, her mother becomes ill close to Christmas and is unable to finish the blanket. Lucida is heartbroken that she does not have a gift for the Baby Jesus and offers the only thing she can find: weeds. When she presents them to the Baby Jesus, a miracle occurs. (Cards 6 or 7; Decorations 5, 6, or 7; Ornaments 1 – Nativity or 6; Sensory 1)
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say is about a boy who experiences his first Christmas when his mother tells him about her childhood Christmases in California and shares the tradition of decorating a tree and exchanging gifts with him. (Cards 3; Decorations 3, 4, 10, or 11; Ornaments 1, 3, 4, or 5; Sensory 4)
A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M. E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal talks about the different types of tasty treats that children all over the world leave for Santa. You can eat your way around the world with Santa by making some of the recipes at the back of the book! (Cards 3, 4, or 5 – tree; Decorations 3, 4, 8, or 9; Ornaments 1 – Santa, 3, 4, 7, or 8; Sensory 2 or 3)
The Greatest Gift: The Story of the Other Wise Man by Susan Summers, illustrated by Jackie Morris is about Artaban, the Wise Man who did not arrive at the rendezvous in time to travel with the other three. Artaban sells everything he has for three jewels to present to the newborn King of Kings. Artaban arrives in Bethlehem too late to see Jesus and spends the rest of his life searching for him and helping those in need along the way. In the end, Artaban loses everything of earthly value but finds his King. (Cards 7; Decorations 5, 6, or 12; Ornaments 1 – Nativity, 11, 12, or 13; Sensory 1)
Shooting at the Stars by John Hendrix is a retelling of the Christmas Truce of 1914 from the point of view of a British soldier named Charlie. Although Charlie is a fictional character, the events are real. Charlie’s letter to his mother is based off soldiers’ accounts of the Christmas of 1914 where for a short time there was peace on Earth in the middle of a war. (Cards 3 or 5 – tree; Decorations 3 or 4; Ornaments 3, 4, 11, 12, or 13; Sensory 4)
Hand and Footprint Angels (Preschool – This can be turned into a card by gluing the angel to a piece of cardstock and writing a message on the back.)
If you’re as into fairy tales as I am, then you already know that there are hundreds of Cinderella retellings. Below, I have organized some picture book retellings of Cinderella by continent. So, whether you’re a fairy tale fanatic or have an interest in anthropology, I think you’ll be fascinated by the way that culture influenced the telling of the tale. After reading some of the books, be sure to try one or more of the educational activities at the end of the post.
Read two or more versions of the Cinderella story and compare and contrast the versions. (Preschool Adaptation: Read one version a day. Ask the same questions about each version. After reading a new version, compare the version you just read with the versions that you already read. Question suggestions: “Who did Cinderella live with?” “How many sisters did Cinderella have?” “Where did Cinderella want to go?” “Who helped Cinderella get there?” “Did Cinderella lose something? What?” “How did the Prince find Cinderella?”)
Read multiple versions of the Cinderella story and identify the elements that all the read stories have in common. Then, have students write their own Cinderella stories that incorporate those same elements.
Divide students into groups. Have each group read a different version of Cinderella and act it out for the class.
Divide students into groups. Assign each group a different version of the Cinderella story and have them research the culture it came from. Have them present that culture to the class. (Preschool Adaptation: Choose a few versions of the Cinderella story and talk about the cultures in those stories. Do a craft and/or play a game specific to each culture and/or have a table or corner for each culture filled with items from or that could be found in that culture.)
For more themed book recommendations and activities, visit my post library.
Reading was a huge part of my childhood. Some of my best memories are of my parents reading to me. When I was six and got lost at Disney Land, I knew what to do because of a Sesame Street picture book that my mom had read to me.
Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a new story based off of your favorite picture book from childhood. Do one of the following:
Re-write the picture book as a story for adults.
Take the moral or theme of the picture book, and write a different children’s story with the same moral or theme.
Why was that picture book your favorite? Identify element that made the book special for you. Then, write a story that contains that element, but otherwise is unrelated to that picture book.
So, once you’ve publish your book, you’re job is done, right? Wrong! Now more than ever, authors have to market their books. A great marketing strategy is to book live events like school visits, library presentations, and book signings.
These sorts of interactions can by scary for authors, especially for the ones who hate public speaking or are introverts. The following articles have tips for how to have positive author events. I hope they help!
“7 Tips for the Perfect Author Visit” by Brad Herzog (Authors, consider creating an event packet to give to give to schools, libraries, and other event locations to help stir up excitement for your visit – see point 4. Trust me, as someone who’s acted since I was five, an engaged audience is way more fun than an apathetic one.)