Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer

Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer

Li Cunxin
Illustrator:  Anne Spudvilas 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2007   ISBN: 0802797776

When Li was a little boy, he lived in a remote village in China with his parents and his six brothers. The family never had enough to eat, and Li had little hope for the future. Li’s father told him the story of a little frog who was trapped in a well, a frog who was unable to get out into the big world that lay above, and Li felt like that little frog, trapped in a situation that he could not control.

Then one day, when Li was eleven years old, officials from Beijing came to Li’s school and Li was chosen to become a dancer in the Beijing Dance Academy. Though Li was terrified of leaving his family, he knew this was his once chance to get out of his village.

Years of hard work and loneliness followed, and then, when Li was eighteen, he was invited to study ballet in America. At long last Li had found a way to escape from his well, but he always thought of his family. Would be ever see them again?

This inspiring and touching story will resonate with readers of all ages. Children will see how one poor little boy was able to make his dreams come true, and how he never forgot where he came from. With a powerful text and beautiful illustrations, this title is joy to read and to look at.

In 2008 this book won the Australian Association’s Book of the Year for Younger Children honor award.