Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance is Nisha Sharma’s sophomore YA novel. It follows Radha, a skilled Kathak dancer who decides to stop dancing after anxiety and a family betrayal cause her to bow out of a contest. Jai is a student at the Princeton Academy of the Arts where Radha transfers. Although she is insistent on not dancing, her dance skills may be Jai’s ticket to medical school (which he’s convinced e can’t attend). Add Radha’s grandfather’s cookbook, Jai’s family dilemmas, and plenty of dancing, and this story comes to life.
Bindu’s Bindis are her favorite accessories — and she has a lot of them! Her Nani (grandmother) sends her a new pack every week and Bindu loves changing them to match her mood, outfits, or the occasion. Bindu loves her culture and the heritage the bindis represent, but most of all, they make her feel connected to her Nani. But when Nani comes to visit and the family is confronted with xenophobic protests outside the airport, Bindu wants to hide her bindis and the parts of her culture that make her feel “other.”
Kai is from a family of dancers, and he seems to be the odd man out. The family has been invited to their Auntie Nina’s wedding, and Kai and his siblings will have roles in the wedding. Kai immediately becomes worried because he has a history of messing up his moves. He even tripped over someone the last time he tried the electric slide.
The Sea in Winter is the story of 12-year-old ballet dancer Maisie Cannon who is recovering from a torn ACL. Maisie is Native American and part of a blended family; her mom remarried after her father’s death and she has a younger half-brother. With regard to her heritage, her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her stepfather, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Maisie is miserable because her two closest (and only) friends Eva and Hattie are also ballerinas and now that she isn’t dancing, it’s too difficult to maintain her friendships with them. She’s also struggling with how slowly she’s recovering and is a bit depressed in general because of how much she loves ballet how tightly woven into her identity it was.
Bunheads was my first experience with a Misty Copeland picture book. I love watching her dance, so I was happy to get a digital copy of this ARC. This story is based on Misty’s first-time experience with ballet class. The teacher tells them the story of Coppelia (which they will be performing), and then they learn the steps and eventually perform by the end of the book.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance is Donna Barba Higuera’s debut middle-grade novel. Her protagonist Lupe is a Mexican-Chinese girl who loves baseball. Her Chinese father died several years ago, so she lives with her Mexican mom and her brother Paolo. However, both her abuela and her Chinese grandparents are very present in their lives. Lupe is excited to get all A’s this year because her uncle has promised her a meeting with baseball star Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese like her if she does. But all of a sudden, there’s a new development in her gym class: Coach wants them to do square dancing instead of like, actual sports. And guess what? Lupe does not dance.
Although I have zero professional dance experience, I love middle-grade books about dance! Sadly, though, new middle-grade books about dance are far and few in between. However, in this list of best middle-grade books about dance, I hunted down a few other excellent recommendations. Not all the books here are about ballet — some feature hip-hop, square dancing, and even one about a Mexican dance. The books all feature dancing as a central theme, and protagonists who either love dancing or at least come to appreciate it by the end.