Review: Dance the Hora, Isadora!

Dance the Hora, Isadora!

by Gloria Koster, illustrated by Barbara Bongini

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Arlene Schenker

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This is a joyful book that captures the delight of dancing the hora at a Jewish wedding. Isadora is a spunky little girl who takes ballet classes. At the end of each class, the students can share a favorite dance. Isadora doesn’t have a special dance of her own, but her grandma tells her that she will have one soon. Isadora knows that her grandma is referring to Cousin Rachel’s wedding, which they’ll both be attending on Sunday.

At the wedding celebration, when the band starts playing Hava Nagila, Grandma makes a space for herself and Isadora in the dance circle. With no time to learn the hora, Isadora is swept along with the others—and so is the reader thanks to the lively language describing the music and dancing. The illustrations exude laughter and joy and make the wedding come alive. Later Grandma teaches Isadora the steps, so she is able to share the hora with her ballet friends.

Isadora has a grand time at the wedding. As the flower girl, she gets to stand under the chuppah. Other Jewish wedding rituals and customs are shown, too. We see the groom smash the glass and the bride and groom lifted up in chairs, all through the eyes of a little girl who witnesses this jubilation for the first time.

The book ends with a “Note to Families” which expands a little more on the Jewish content, making this delightfully engaging book a good candidate for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

Whether the child reader has already been to such a wonderful celebration or not, they’ll be glad they were invited to this wedding!

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Reviewer Arlene Schenker has a degree in Child Development from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor from New York University Law School. She has worked as a New York City primary grade teacher, a lawyer, divorce mediator, and a community activist and volunteer. She now spends most of her time reading and writing picture books.