When the team of my colleagues and I assembled to select our Mock Printz list of books, none of us had read, or at least completed, A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman. Because of this we based our decision to leave the book off our list partially based on the cover art. It is not the type of book cover that would attract today's teen readers. In fact, it is likely to have the opposite effect on them.
Unfortunately, our decision to leave it off our list was premature. The book's content is lovely and quite inspiring. Written entirely in verse the book is about Veda, a classical dance student in India. She is quite talented and even wins a local competition before tragedy strikes and she loses her leg. Now Veda must fight to regain her talents as a dancer and find balance in her life. Along the road to her recovery the reader is treated to sights and sounds of her India and learns about about how the Hindu faith is the wharf and weave of daily life. I was transported by the poetic prose and all the cultural and religious references. Below is an example of the type of writing. In this scene Veda goes to see a famous dancer perform. She is suddenly aware that it is not about the dancer but about the dance.
She sings, "What Your name is, I do not know or care.
Because I feel you everywhere I dance."
Her notes rise into the air.
She follows her voice with her body,
turning slowly, her arms outstretched like beams of light
reaching upward from the earth.
Her palms carve a staircase into the sky.
I watch her skirts swirling around her ankles.
her hair is flying around her face,
whirling faster than the rest of her.
She is the edge of a spinning circle.
She is the stillness at its center.
She is light as a petal rising in a spiraling breeze.
She is a petal dissolving into flower-dust.
On the stage,
there is no dancer.
there us only dance.
Whether or not this book wins any awards this year is beside the point, this book deserves to be read and read widely.