Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dancing With Katya

Dancing With Katya

Dori Chaconas
Illustrator:  Constance Rummel Bergum 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Peachtree Publishers, 2006   ISBN: 978-1561453764

Even when she was very little Anna’s little sister Katya loved to dance. From the time when she was baby until she was five years old Anna and Katya danced together. And then something dreadful happened, Katya got sick and her poor little body had to battle to survive against polio.

Eventually Katya began to get better but her poor legs were now twisted and weak and she could not stand up straight and strong the way she once did. Certainly she could not dance. So, Anna would dance for her and sometimes Anna would pick her up and carry her in her arms, twirling her “around until we both were laughing.” Anna hoped more than anything that somehow her sister’s “pioneer spirit would be strong enough” to make it possible for Katya to dance again one day.

Then one day Mama announced that she was going to take Katya to a special hospital where doctors would help Katya’s legs get strong again. Katya was afraid but she went bravely and Anna and Papa waited at home, hoping that their Katya would make good progress at the special hospital. Maybe Katya would come home dancing again. Anna dreamed and hoped.

It is hard to imagine today what is must have been like to live with the fear of polio hanging over one’s life like a dark and terrifying cloud. The disease killed many children and adults and it marked the lives of countless others. In this story Katya and her devoted sister find a way to keep the spirit of their love of dance alive even though polio did its best to rob little Katya’s legs of the ability to dance. With courage and creativity the sisters prevail and readers are left with a warm feeling that somehow Katya, with Anna by her side, will find the happiness that she is looking for. Lovingly written, and charmingly illustrated in soft watercolors, this picture book is a fitting tribute to all those children who bravely bore the months and years of suffering that polio inflicted on them. It is also a fitting tribute to little dancers who are handicapped and yet who do not give up on their dreams but who persevere and dream on.