________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 15 . . . .March 21, 2008


Dancing on the Edge. (HIP Edge).

Sharon Jennings.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2008.
107 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-897039-27-4.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

*** /4


Dancing on the Edge Teacher’s Guide.

Lori Jamison.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2008.
20 pp., stapled., $5.95.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

*** /4



Rosa finished her jette line and wiped her face with a towel. "Isn’t this great? I love this! I have to get into DansCool!"

"Of course you will. Haven’t you been watching? The rest of these guys are hopeless."

It was my turn. I was right behind Queen Victoria, so I couldn’t resist. I added in a couple of tricks to the basic drill. A couple of kids cheered. Victoria turned quickly to see what was going on. I finished with a triple pirouette and said "ta dah" just for laughs. Victoria’s face went hard as I finished.

Then Madame Wolfson pounded her cane. "Lee, I asked for one pirouette, not a triple."

I was stunned. "Yes, but I can do..."

"I do not really care what you think you can do," interrupted Madame Wolfson. "I asked for a single pirouette because that shows me your control."

Oh, as if she couldn’t see my control a mile away. I rolled my eyes.

Madame Wolfson nodded to Victoria. "Please show Lee a single pirouette."

Victoria went to the center of the floor. Her preparation was perfect and so was her pirouette.

"Thank you, my dear." Madame Wolfson looked over at me.

"Do you want me to do a pirouette again?"

"No, thank you. We’ve wasted enough time."


Sharon Jennings, a prolific writer of books for young readers, has created her first novel aimed at older teens. In this high-interest novel, ninth-grade Bonnie Lee, a talented dancer, reinvents herself as Lee as she crosses Division Street to attend an arts high school. She is terrified of venturing into a wealthier neighbourhood and the possibility that she will be mocked for her secondhand clothes. She has barely settled into the new school when her overconfidence in her dance abilities leads her to show off at an important audition, and she doesn’t win a place in the dance troupe. Through the remainder of the book, she begins to gain real confidence, express who she really is, and navigate the social challenges of being a ‘newbie.’ She works through her fear to create and dance in her own routine and also finds ways to deflect the putdowns that come her way from snobby, entitled girls. She learns to stand up for herself with the smooth Carlos, who pursues her from the day he meets her and who is alternately sweet and bullying in his relationship with her.

     Cleanly written and well-paced, this novel is an enjoyable, easy read with no jarring passages. Scenes are almost exclusively set at the school and are generally brief, with frequent events to keep the interest level high. The characters are described succinctly, but most are vivid, especially Lee’s best friend, Rosa, and Carlos. We get to know them largely through conversation, an approach which keeps the story moving. Dance terms are introduced in context, and sparingly, and the dance scenes are also vivid and engaging.

      Lee is a likeable character whose emotions are described honestly. Her personality is somewhat confusing, especially in the first half of the novel. She is first portrayed as an awkward, extremely self-conscious girl who can barely make it to her new school. A short time later, at the dance audition, she is not just confident, but arrogant, and she clearly shows her disdain for the other dancers in front of the class and even the formidable teacher. These traits may all be possible in a complicated character, but the book is not long or contemplative enough to portray this complexity. Lee’s character is more convincing from the time of the audition onwards as she struggles to understand how and why she messed up and to find a solution. Blatant name-calling and teasing about clothes are two ways in which the school atmosphere sometimes recalls a junior high rather than a high school environment. Overall, the characters seem a little younger than grade nine and ten. The neat way that events wrap up is both satisfying and slightly too pat. Bad behaviour is punished, and sincerity and hard work are rewarded. However, because Lee has honestly tried to correct her missteps and has taken chances, her success feels well-deserved. The comeuppance of Lee’s rival, Victoria, is slightly less satisfying as she is a rather flat caricature of a snotty rich girl.

      The 20-page Dancing on the Edge Teacher’s Guide provides a clear and detailed plot synopsis broken down by chapter, followed by suggestions for introducing and teaching the novel. A brief passage on types of dance and dance history introduces several ideas that could be incorporated into exercises and discussion. The novel is divided into four chunks for teaching purposes, and several discussion points for each section are provided. New vocabulary is also listed for each section. Class activities focus on stimulating creative thought; for example, predicting what will happen to certain characters, or discussing why Lee or others act the way they do. After-reading activity suggestions include theater, interview and creative writing projects. Very well-written and easy to use, this guide is a useful complement to the novel.


Andrea Galbraith is a student librarian and writer based in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.