Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Stompin’ At the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller

Stompin’ At the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller

Alan (Compiler) Govenar
Illustrator:  Martin French 
For ages 12 and up
Candlewick Press, 2006   ISBN: 978-0763622442

When she was just five years old precocious little Norma Miller knew that she wanted to be a dancer when she grew up. Living in Harlem in New York City in the mid 1920’s her mother would give “house-rent parties” inviting paying guests to parties in their apartment to listen to music and to dance. More often than not little Norma would dance with the guests if ice cream was in the offing.

Living behind the Savoy Ballroom Norma grew up dreaming of the day when she too might be able to dance in the place where the best of the best danced – in the “Home of Happy Feet” as Lana Turner called it. Finally, when she was twelve years old, Norma danced there for the first time on Easter Sunday as the guest of Twist Mouth George, one of the greatest jazz dancers of his time.

Later, as a teenager, Norma won a contest which opened the door of the Savoy to her once more and this time she went there to work. Though she was only fifteen and to young to be properly paid, her career had begun. She participated in the 1935 Harvest Moon Ball, “the Olympics of the dance world” and she and her partner won the third prize for their performance of the Lindy Hop. This led to a trip to Europe and the beginning of a grand adventure which has kept Norma dancing in one way or another ever since.

One can practically hear Norma Miller’s rich and warm voice in this excellent account of her life and of her life-long love affair with jazz dance. Readers will get a vibrant picture of what her world was like and best of all they will be left with a very real sense of what she is like – a woman without regrets who remembers her past fondly, who savors the present, and who looks forward to the future.