Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Song and Dance Man

Song and Dance Man

Karen Ackerman
Illustrator:   Stephen Gammell 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2003   ISBN: 978-0394893303

Grandpa was a song and dance man on Vaudeville when he was a young man and sometimes when his three grandchildren visit him and Grandma, Grandpa takes the children up to the attic and the four of them take a little trip into the past. In the attic grandpa keeps a trunk full of hats, vests, bow ties, and other paraphernalia from his showbiz days. Most importantly this is where he keeps his tap shoes. One by one Grandpa puts on the pieces of the costume of his past and sets the stage for a show. Lights... a little white powder on the floor... and now Grandpa is ready.

Soon the children are swept away by Grandpa’s wonderful performance of dances, songs, jokes, and magic tricks. They can see what Grandpa might have been like all those years ago and delight in this show which is "better than any show on TV."

Carefully, with precision and perfect timing, the author builds up the tension as Grandpa prepares for his show. The show itself is shown as a whirl of color, light, music and laughter - just as the real shows on Vaudeville must have been. Then, slowly everything slows down and Grandpa once again is Grandpa and the song and dance man is back in the leather trimmed trunk in the attic. And yet, the children and the reader know that really the song and dance man is inside Grandpa all the time. It is a part of who he is and he is proud of it.

This is a wonderful tribute to a time when entertainment could not be turned on with the flick of a switch. And it is also a tribute to all those grandparents who take the time to share their past and present with the children in their lives.

Stephen Gammell captures the magic of Grandpa’s performance with his distinctive pencil drawn art.

This book won the 1989 Caldecott Medal.