“There are no dancers / on this temple’s walls. / Here, even Shiva / stands still.” page 99
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2014.
Novel in verse, 307 pages.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 5.0 points) .
Veda is a classical dance prodigy starting out on a glorious career in Bharatanatyam when her leg has to be amputated. But dance is her life and the center of her being. Can she forge a new life? Can dance be part of it?
Pretty sure this is going on my favorite 2017 reads list although the competition will be steep this year. Not what you expected me to say about a novel in verse, right?
My biggest problem with novels in verse is that they are incredibly difficult to balance. I love novels, and I love poetry, but inevitably most novels in verse lose out either in plot or in poetry. This book has ample plot and appropriate narrative arc, while still having generally gorgeous poetry. I’m in awe of how Venkatraman pulled this off, because it is very, very difficult to do.
This free verse novel tells about when the Ku Klux Klan came to a small town in Vermont in 1924. The story is told through 11 different voices, some of them sympathetic to the KKK and others in great danger from this change. Two pivotal figures are 12-year-old Leanora Sutter, a gifted African-American, and Jewish 6-year-old Esther Hirsh. Although this book seems to be aimed at 5th-8th grade students, since the characters span such a wide age range, it could be used in high school as well.
I’m not fond of novels in verse. I love poetry and novels, but feel the combination usually sacrifices either poetic artistry or the craft of the novel. When I picked this book at the library (SM), I had no idea it was in verse. Once I opened it, the poor book languished, being read a few pages here and there while I whizzed through other books (autobiographies of Simone Biles and Trevor Noah). Finally I finished, then quickly re-read it for this review so I could return it.